As we start a new year, we're all trying to get in the best possible position to achieve our goals in 2020. And whether you're looking to change jobs, bring in new business for your company, or expand your own organization, you're going to need a great network to get there.
Networking is a crucial part of professional life. But even though everybody does it, not everybody does it well. Networking isn't just as simple as meeting people in your industry and reaching out to them when you need something. It takes tact, hard work and careful planning to succeed.
Most people aren't networking as well as they could be, and they show their inexperience in how they interact. Here are the three tactics the best networkers always use that can help you up your networking game this year.
Always BCC in emails.
Here's a scenario: you've introduced two of your professional colleagues over email. Before you know it, your inbox is flooded with messages between them as they trade pleasantries, discuss their common interests and decide where they are going to meet for lunch. After taking time to selflessly introduce two people, you've gotten 20 irrelevant emails in return.
There's a simple fix to this, but so many people neglect to do it: when somebody connects you to one of their contacts, always move them to blind carbon copy, or BCC, when you respond and let them know you are doing it. Here's an example:
"John (bcc), thank so much for the intro and great to meet you Gary."
This lets the introducer know you have followed up and ensures they will be excluded from any future emails that won't be pertinent to them.
This is a simple idea that makes a big difference; it also shows your network that you know what you are doing and you value their time.
Do the heavy lifting.
I get frequent requests for introductions to others for a variety of reasons. While I'm generally happy to help others and make a connection, I have a lot of demands on my time and have needed to become more discerning about how I handle these requests. The first question I ask myself is: is this person asking me to do work they aren't willing to do themselves?
When asking for networking help, it's important to show people you value their time and make their work as easy as possible. For example, don't just ask someone for an introduction, give them exactly what they need to make the introduction for you.
Recently, I wanted to have a well-known person on my podcast and saw that he knew a mutual contact. I asked that contact if he could make an intro and wrote a personalized paragraph that he could cut and paste to make the connection. It took him less than a minute to make the intro, and within two days I had the person confirmed as a guest.
If you do the heavy lifting when networking, people will be more willing to help you--and you will get better results. No one wants to help people who are lazy and expect more of others than themselves.
Use double opt-in.
Just as there are best practices when asking for help in networking, it's also important to take similar care when connecting two associates. One of the most uncomfortable networking situations is being introduced to a person over email, with no prior context. This is especially unpleasant when the person being introduced clearly wants something from you or the intro appears to have been traded as a favor.
When this happens, you're put in an awkward situation of having to say yes to helping, engaging with a person you did not ask to meet, or saying no and potentially hurting their feelings. Most people resent being put in this position.
This is why all the best networkers I know use the double opt-in system before making a connection. Before you introduce two contacts, ask each of them if they are open to connecting and provide context before you bridge them together. This also ensures you are making the introduction for the right reasons.
Remember that everybody has their own priorities to focus on, and even the most helpful people don't like a surprise imposition that may not be relevant to them.
Networking is just like any other facet of business--it takes planning, emotional intelligence and knowledge of best practices to do it the right way. By doing the work to build your network, treating both sides of the connection with respect, and being willing to help others, you can raise your networking game in 2020.