1). Keeps your eyes open – Most of us think of networking as something we have to go out there and do. Wrong. There are several people around you- in your office, at your club, your housing community, among the parents of your kid’s friends with whom you can network. Are you well networked with your boss’s boss ? Do people outside your immediate team know you? Do you talk to the gentleman who swims at the pool with you and waves to you everytime you plunge in? When was the last time you dropped in at your neighbour’s home? Look around – there are useful connects that are passing you by because you are not aware enough of people immediately around you or too busy to pause for a moment…
2). Offer to help – We go into the networking mode thinking what can I get out of this relationship. Negative. The right question to NOT to ask What can I bring to the relationship. Why should Mrs X talk with me? Approaching networking as a transaction does not help. Instead lay the brickworks by being the good samaritian around. Offer to be the secretary at your newly formed housing society.Your Ganesh Puja association president or at least a chanda collector .Offer to help the gentleman brush up his swimming strokes or correct his bicep wok out posture. At office, be the one who arranges the pizza party(and then make sure you invite your boss’ boss to it),or the other guy who is not finding the project phone code to make a call from desk. Do these things with genuine intention and watch your connects grow.
3). Piggyback – All of us know the uber social creature – that one friend in your list of good friends who knows everyone around. Tag along. Yes, simply tag along. Being the good friends and proverbial networker that he is, he wouldn’t mind. Piggyback to make friends – most people find it easier to connect if there is someone who acts as a bridge.
4). Introduce two other connectors – this is an unbelievable technique ,on line with the above. If you can introduce two people who are themselves great connectors then you become a meta-connector. They will meet and get along (connectors get along with each other for two reasons: they are naturally friendly people (hence their ability to connect so easily with people) AND they have a lot of friends in common almost by definition.) If you are in the middle of that connection then they will always remember you and you’ll always be on their mind for future potential connections they can make the world useful for you .And their rolodexes are immense.
5). Introduce two people with an idea in mind - Priyank meet Richik.Richik meet Amit. Richik, you have the best discount dining business I have ever heard .Priyank , your ground operational idea is the best home delivery idea I know of. You both can make money together. No need to “cc” me. In other words, if you can help two other people make money then eventually, good things will happen to you. In cases where I’ve been able to do this (rare, but it’s happened) I always tell people who say “what can I do for you” that “if they ever find me in the gutter with blood leaking from my mouth and a needle sticking out of the veins in my elbow then at the very least pull the needle out.” That’s all I ask. The first time I ever did this I went home and told my girlfriend, “I just helped two people make money for the first time ever.” And she said, “yeah, but what did you get?” I got nothing. But I felt something. I felt like I had done good in the world and that if I kept doing it, eventually it would return to me. And it did from these very 2 people months later.
6). Something smart to say - In order to connect two people, you have to have people to connect. You have to meet them in the first place. The best way to do that is to produce something of value. People are busy. Nobody wanted to meet some random guy like me. So instead I tried a new technique. For each people I wanted to meet I would spend time researching their business and come up with 10 ideas that would help them that I would just completely give for free. Networking as I earlier said is about what you bring to the table.Look out for common interests, overlapping work areas or even common things to hate. And latch on to it. ‘Oh you play tennis? Where? Why don’t you try the XYZ courts where I practise? They are fabulous and who knows we can team up together in the next yearly meet ’
7). Carry your wits along - I remember a business dinner some years back when a friend of mine introduced me to a digital media entrepreneur. This was a connect I had been looking for however after the initial handshake I started the conversation with,’Oh you are a could expert ’(as if that were a find of the century). Needless to say the conversation and the connection did not take off. Carry your wits along. The easiest thing to do is to ask intelligent , open ended questions like – ‘You are in an exciting field of cloud computing. But is not the field very competitive these days?,Everybod is talking about it. How do you deal with it’
8 ). Listen – Many people who say they cannot network attribute it to the fact that they are not smooth talkers. But I believe a greater part of networking is about listening. People, specially successful ones love to talk. All you have to do is be a good listener and pick up the cues to keep the conversation going. Listen and remember; so that the next time you connect you can ask him about the Singapore deal he was worried about. Nothing pleases us more than to be remembered.
9). Smile – As you stand in the corner, with antiquity blue, look around with a confident smile and try to make eye contact. Chances are someone will return the smile and you can start a conversation.
10). Re-establishing Contact - The other day I was following my own advice of connecting with post grad college mates ,I messaged one old friend about how she is doing in her B school and how she help me with studies in my post grad school .She immediately wrote back (because, unlike me, she’s a good connector and sme) and said, “what are you up to? Here”s what I’m doing. Maybe we can work together again and work on a developing a business case in reverse innovative model ” This is 6 years after I last spoke to her. Guess what she’s now on my call list. But I’ll get back to her. Maybe later today. After I post my blog. Because I promised my friend 3 months ago that I would post “today” although “today” means that day three months ago.
11). Cultivate – The most important thing to do without which you cannot nourish a relationship enough. Networking is about farming and requires efforts to maintain. Stay in touch with the occasional sms , DM , email or the phone call. Wish on their birthdays, remember anniversaries. If you happen to be in the same city, plan a meet up. Judge your network not by the numbers but by the depth of the ties at least that’s what an HBR article says.
12). Have a booze party of interesting people - Ok and maybe dinner too.I’ve only done this twice.Once at new years eve of 2006, I invited people from every aspect of my life (friends, friends’s friends,their wives and ex wives ) to my place, I got everyone the magic potion , and it was a fun time. I solidified my relationships with some of my ol pals 7 years later, plus with some of the funds was invested in, and I managed to connect people up who later did work together. On another occasion I threw a party for everyone who had been fired by Birlasoft. It got a little awkward when the guy who had done most of the firing (who had himself been fired right before then) was also there but it was all in good fun. Not sure how much goodwill it created for me. Too early to tell. But, I much more enjoy GOING to the dinner that I’m invited to. I’ve met a lot of interesting people. My main problem is that my normal bedtime is about 10.30 pm. So sometimes I fall asleep at the table and everyone thinks I’m on drugs. And other times I just can’t go to the diner because I know I won’t be functional the next morning when I like to work out. But sometimes I got just because my roomie gets sick of having me around all the time and pushes me out the door. So please keep inviting me.
I hope these tips help get you past the opening ‘Hi’ and move you out of the corner reserved for solitary orange-juice drinkers(I love orange-juice but will not want to stand fidgeting with the glass in a party).I would sum this up for now and write a follow up post on how I was able to put the skills to test at the dinner party tonight with CP,Ceo Mahindra Satyam , TechM combined ,annual award winners –and for all so called 'conversation skills' was, if at all able to barge into the old boys’ network.