Do you wish you had better connections? Influencers who can make a difference in your life and business? These connections are accessible to you--if you're willing to invest a bit of time and effort. The best way to connect with powerful people is to become a master connector yourself.  Becoming, and remaining, respected as a master connector isn't all that difficult but, along with a good dose of integrity, it takes an investment of time and energy. It's well worth it though; when you introduce people to one another because you authentically want to help others, those favors will certainly be returned.

Follow this basic formula to begin escalating your personal brand as a masterful connector. Like a good wine, your results will improve with age.

Begin with your existing contacts.

Sometimes the things you want and need are right under your nose and you don't even know it. As you scroll through your contact list and social media connections, notice how many people you haven't connected with in a long time. Many of these people are smart and successful. Others could use a hand getting word of their business out. Separate the appropriate connections into two lists; this list is where you begin your mission.

Choose your means of contact.

Choose an appropriate means to connect with at least one or two people from each list every week. Consider email, phone, text, social media, Zoom or Skype, and sometimes regular mail service. Think about how the other person likes to communicate and choose your method accordingly.

Overcome the emotional obstacles.

You may wonder what you possibly have to say to some of your connections. It could be that you worry about bothering people or fumbling for words. This is not hard-core sales, it's just a conversation, so take the pressure off of yourself. It's much easier to speak to people when you initiate the conversation and you are reaching out to see how you may be of assistance to them. Remember, you don't have to come up with ten ideas of how to help--not even one idea. As you learn more about their lives and businesses your brain will register the information unconsciously. One day, you'll meet someone interesting or come across a resource and immediately think of just the right person to tell.

Keep track.

Decide the best way to keep track of your conversations, including dates and follow up notes. Not everyone has access to a CRM, so you can keep it as simple as a spreadsheet or notes and flags in Outlook. A Google calendar may work for you.

Know your intent.

While the benefits of being a master connector are many, keep your intent clear. This is about helping people by connecting them with others and with resources that may be of value to them. With that said, a savvy networker will always ask how they may assist you as well.  I usually ask people, "How would I recognize a valuable opportunity or contact for you?" More often than not, most do not have a clear, memorable answer. Know how to answer this critical question for yourself or you'll greatly diminish the impact of your efforts.

Keep true to your style.

There are those people whose actions are not authentic; they will connect with you only when they want something from you. Others really and truly wish to help, so don't give up. As you develop a rhythm with your contacts it becomes natural and easy for the giving to become mutual, but only if both parties have integrity.

Ask permission.

When you do make an introduction, have the courtesy to ask permission from both parties first. Many people introduce their peers to me because they believe there's an Inc.com interview in there somewhere. Usually, there is not and these situations become frustrating and embarrassing. Give each party a general idea of why you believe they should meet, but don't draw them a full picture. Let them be in charge of the exploration.

Get introductory paragraphs.

The value of a connection is diminished if you don't introduce people properly, or include misleading or inaccurate information about someone. Ask your contacts to provide you with a very brief introduction of themselves so you can keep on file to include in future emails.

Stay out of it.

Never try to control the outcome of your introductions; it won't end up well for you or for them. Don't pester people to follow up or direct them on what to say. You don't need another responsibility on your plate.

Deepen the relationship.

I always joke that I have best friends who I've never met in person. Open up a little by talking about things other than business, or by sharing stories. When you're open and demonstrate compassion, others will respond similarly. Ask open-ended questions and learn what's truly important to people. Begin some of your future conversations with questions about these things to let them know you are really paying attention and that you care.

Remain in touch.

Always follow through on your commitments and stay in touch. You will fall into a pattern with most of your people and end up connecting every quarter, once a year, or more frequently. It's different for everyone. I have some acquaintances I can set a clock by and it never ceases to impress me when they show up just as anticipated. Remember too, that a phone call is not always necessary. Vary your method and means of correspondence by sending them a relevant article, a holiday greeting, and update, or a quick note wishing them a good day. It's that simple.

Being a connector is a way of life. If you keep it simple and remain consistent, your name will be confidently shared in the right circles and create great opportunity. Be patient, thoughtful, and diligent and it can change everything. 

Published on: Nov 27, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.