But…it is too easy not to today. And convince ourselves we are.
There are many excuses disguised as techniques available today. It is easy to have many contact details, but no actual connections.
How do you make personal connections?
You can ‘invest’ time in research. You can find so much out about people today online – both paid and free. Isn’t it amazing how many people are so free with their information.
However, if you’re highly analytical, unconfident or a procrastinator – you can research someone to death and even to the point where you convince yourself you can’t or shouldn’t contact them. Or that you haven’t quite done enough research yet.
You can even be so cheeky and buy this information from various data warehouses. Set your criteria, pay your fee and voila – contacts!!!
However – you need to realise that at some point you need to actually talk to them! You should do enough research to get excited to the point where you can’t stop yourself from talking to them. The purpose to research is to find out enough information so you know who you should talk to and about what compelling things. Some one that says consistently ‘they’re on the list’ worries me.
Research is really importantly but it is about finding the reasons to contact, rather than being an activity (excuse) not to.
You can network your way to meeting people. This is another option. Yes, you can, if you plan. However, Accepting every event isn’t a plan. Simply turning up to events isn’t a plan. Turning up, having a few drinks and leaving isn’t a plan. Having a plan is having a plan. First, you need to turn up to the right events. Second, you need to ensure you have the right audience in attendance. . Third, you actually need to talk to people! Different people, about them. You need to know your elevator pitch as, guess what, they’ll ask about you and what you do. And, finally, you need to follow up after the event.
Everyone is usually approachable at an event and quite open to meeting people – though this doesn’t always transition to the next day. If you strike a conversation up with someone you see value in – a) position the next contact while you’re talking at the event (as this both gives you permission and commits you to following up) and b) Follow. Up!
Collecting business cards isn’t the name of the game, making connections is.
Are you guilty of this? Maybe as a result of the above networking event. Rushed back to the office and connected with them on LinkedIn? Maybe you were super savvy and ‘connected on the spot’?
Done that? Have a great LinkedIn Network? Awesome – so you can just sit back, research and ask people to connect you with people you wish to talk to?
Of course you can but will you? No. If you can’t contact someone directly – it’s fairly safe to bet you also won’t ask someone to refer you to them either. Harsh – but true.
The human response to not want rejection from the person you are trying to contact applies exactly the same if you are asking someone to introduce you to that person. It just simply won’t happen.
Your LinkedIn network can be an incredibly powerful ally – or a faux safety blanket. It’s okay, they’re in my network is next to it’s okay on they’re on the list.
LinkedIn Networks can be like collecting Pokemon – you want them all, but many are useless unless you a) invest time in furthering the relationship (ie understand what is in it for both sides) and b) actually use the connections for their and your benefit with that knowledge. This mutuality is important. I can count on one hand how many people have contacted me and asked for an introduction….I can count on even fewer hands who have rung me, versus emailed me.
We often think we are ‘imposing’ or being ‘assumptive’ when asking – but for many, like me, being asked for an introduction is opposite. Here’s a really interesting perspective – I love it when someone says ‘do you know X and could you introduce me?’ It shows me my network is sound and I am trusted. I get value out of being useful. So how do I feel when you don’t ask? What do I think?
Hold on. We can email? We’re in the modern era – aren’t we? Yes we can. But you shouldn’t! Email can maintain a relationship and share knowledge, but it is a terrible tool to form a relationship. It is too easy to get someones email from LinkedIn, their website etc….simply googling ‘<<Name>> email’ will usually provide the desired results. All excited, you fire them off an email to connect and try to elicit a meeting. Then you sit back and wait. And wait. You have just left your crush a love letter in their locker. You have lost all control over the process. A few things now happen. You can possibly assume their didn’t get the email or deleted it accidentally. What do you do now? Do you send them another email? Do you call them? Arggggg. Hold on, what if you do make contact? What if they did get your email and chose to ignore it? Wouldn’t it be really embarrassing if I called them? Yes. Yes it would.
Yes, there are situations where you can email for the first contact – like if you were introduced over email or if you know this is the best/only way to reach them. However, it shouldn’t be your method of choice for the reasons above. You can’t confirm they’ve received and read it. And, you don’t know their thoughts. Either way, unless you leave them to contact you back, you have to contact them again if there is silence.
So, where does this leave us? The phone? Yes. Many don’t realise that with all this noise digitally – we are still really immature as a species in our process of using it. Both as senders and as receivers. One thing we all know is voice. Next to face to face, the phone is the only other tool that a) you know who you are speaking with, b) like it or hate it, you get an immediate response. Once you reach the person (if, in some cases) – the phone has the potential to cut through all the time delays of email, back and forths, mis-communications and mis-reading of social cues. Many hate the phone and this is often understandable. It can be time consuming to reach people can’t it? But hold on, what are the delays like on email? There can be many gatekeepers to get through as well on the phone? But hold on, you’re kidding yourself if you don’t think PA’s and EA’s vet CXO inboxes either. Phone works because it is instant – it doesn’t work for the same reason. You don’t have the power of time. You have to be prepared enough to add value – yet not so prepared that you are rigid to this thinking, robotic or unable to move fluidly with the client. Phone is like public speaking where email is like, unsurprisingly, letter writing.
Yes, much of the above is a facetious look at building connections and there are arguments to the contrary on all the above points.
The key thing here is choose your medium consciously. Don’t default to a single method for everyone. Think about it each and every time. Don’t choose a channel because it’s easy for you, choose it because it is the most effective for your audience.
If your objective is to make personal contact – ensure you make personal contact.