So you want to become a highly successful networker? It's much more simple than you might think--if you know the right trick.
Meet Allyson Downey, founder of the baby and child product recommendation site WeeSpring. Downey is also the author of the new book Here's the Plan, which is a guide for women about steering careers through pregnancy and parenthood.
I know her because our companies sometimes partner together on projects. Two things struck me about her. First, she has one of the most varied and interesting professional backgrounds of anyone you'll ever meet, and second, she's also one of the most effective networkers I know--effective, efficient, and organized--but not overbearing.
Then I discovered her secret. Check it out below, and download the free bonus e-book, The Big Free Book of Success.
Create a database
Writing in The Huffington Post a while ago, Downey laid out her networking strategy--the one that helped her land jobs in "publishing, politics, Wall Street, and the nonprofit world"--before launching her company and getting a coveted spot at Techstars NYC.
The first few points she makes in her article are straightforward good practices. If you're at a networking event, for example, go into it knowing whom you might meet there, and have a plan. And she talks about trying to become the person who helps other people--"find a dentist, a lunch suggestion, help fixing their Wi-Fi network," whatever--and a connector.
But then we find the secret. Here it is, in her own words:
Be the person who can make...introductions, and these connections will pay dividends to you for decades. The only way to do that effectively is to have your own database. You can't store all of this stuff in your brain. (You should be using your brain to do important stuff, not trying to remember people's kids' names or where they went to college.)
Keep track of it all by investing in a CRM, which may sound excessive, but an address book, Excel sheet, or Google doc isn't going to cut it for very long--and you might as well do it right the first time around. I use Salesforce, which costs $5 a month for the most basic solution, and I can sort contacts by how I met them, when I last connected with them, and what categories into which they fit.
What do you do with those contacts, now that they're super-organized?
"Send thank you notes, within 24 hours, and make them specific ('____ resonated with me because _____'). Send a holiday card at a minimum; better yet, send a personal note at least once a year," she writes.
Heck, use Salesforce
Downey tells me her organizing instinct came from her experience working on Democratic Party politics and campaigns, where she'd gotten used to using fundraising software called NGP. From there, it wasn't a long road to trying Salesforce.
I reached out to Salesforce, and unfortunately the $5-a-month option Downey started with doesn't seem to be available anymore. Their basic $25-a-month version might be a possibility, and of course there are many other CRM options.
Regardless, it's less than you might pay for LinkedIn Premium, for example, and Downey swears by it.
"I think of it as a coping mechanism for someone who easily gets distracted," Downey says. "I'm one of those people whose house turns into complete and total mess, and then I clean like crazy, and then it slips back into a mess again. It's kind of the same way in terms of email.... You get to a point where your brain doesn't have space to store all this info."
The super meta part of this article
I almost hesitated to include this part, but it's relevant.
Downey and I talked about her networking strategy two months ago, and I filed my notes away for a future article. And there they sat.
But then, earlier this week, she sent me a quick email. Just a single sentence, reminding me that we'd talked, and asking if I needed anything else. It's no coincidence of course that her book is out this week--and I'm happy to share her story at the same time.
I know firsthand how hectic a book launch can be, and how afterward it's easy to look back on other things you could have done, people you could have reached out to, ways you could have spread the word. It's so hard to keep track.
And yet, here we are--and here's Here's the Plan.
What do you think? Smart strategy or overkill? Let us know in the comments, and don't forget to download the free bonus content, The Big Free Book of Success.