Networking is not about collecting phone numbers; it's about doing business. Here's how to nurture contacts into relationships.
I know two different rock-star business owners who have the types of access you and I would kill for. In their databases are the personal contact information for C-suite executives of the biggest companies, government agencies and influence peddlers in their respective industries.
Yet, these two are like the beauty queens stuck at home on Saturday night–they seem unable to translate those contacts into new business.
What should they be doing and what can you learn?
1. Influence can't be delegated.
The first mistake that I see made by these power connectors is that they try to delegate contacts into their organization too quickly. When a contact is made at a very senior level, the connector should maintain and develop the relationship herself.
If you are the connector, you can bring an entourage to later meetings and discussions, but you have to be there–and you need to stay connected to your power contact. "Let's get our people together" is a cliché and a miserable handoff. Remember that your power contact is influenced at a personal level first.
2. Offer help and counsel.
Your first point of entry? Help someone with a problem. The ask is simple: "I've enjoyed our conversation and the chance to discuss business with you. What initiatives are you working on in the area of [insert your specialty here]? I don't know if we can be of help to you or not on a vendor level, but I want to be helpful. Why don't we sit down together to see what expertise we might lend to the thought process?"
It's a soft ask; it's a sincere offer to help. It's an opportunity to exchange more thoughts and develop the relationship as well as demonstrate value.
3. Stay connected.
Being top of mind in the world of power connections is very important. A friend of mine, Matt Heinz from Heinz Marketing, talks about a simple, powerful, "5-4-3-2-1″ system of connecting:
Send 5 thank-yous
Schedule 4 catch-ups
Make 3 recommendations
Offer 2 referrals
Write 1 hand-written note
Power connectors are able to amplify their influence through this type of daily contact diet. These can be quick: text messages rather than long emails, for instance. Voicemail messages may be appreciated. Leverage LinkedIn for your recommendations and forward blogs and articles for your "thinking of you" comments.
The point is that power connectors are busy. If you want to stay top of mind, you have to work at it.
4. Be a cat, not a butterfly.
Cats can watch a target for long periods of time without chasing after everything that flutters by. I often see power connectors chasing the next connection rather than maximizing what they already have.
To make the powerful take notice, they need to feel important and get laser focus from you. If you have made this connection and there is a shared sense of value, then take it all the way through the discovery process yourself.
Remember, the goal is not collecting contacts–it's making business happen.
Your sphere of influence may be at the neighborhood level, the city or state level, or beyond. But regardless of the scale you're working at, you need to know how to maximize your own access to the key players.