Ever wonder why some people are so powerfully connected, are the first to hear about great opportunities, and earn more quality referrals? The answer may surprise you. To attract more success in business, you don’t have to network more; you just have to network more intentionally. This means becoming more focused, engaging, trusted, and memorable. And not necessarily with more people, but with “your people”—meaning the people who naturally bring the most value into your world.
According Patti DeNucci, author of The Intentional Networker: Attracting Powerful Relationships, Referrals & Results in Business, and Ed Rigsbee, CAE, CSP, a certified professional speaker, your networking success boils down to nine critical steps:
1. Know yourself. It truly is not selfish or narcissistic to practice self-awareness. This involves knowing your strengths, weaknesses, beliefs, passions, preferences, and traits. Fact is, knowing yourself is a key component to creating success and building connection. It breeds authenticity, enthusiasm, and discernment, which helps others see and “get” the real you more readily.
2. Know what you want. If you are vague, ambivalent, scattered, or unsure of your vision, intention, and goals, then you are likely drifting along, preserving the status quo, and possibly even invisible to others. Clarity and focus go a long way to helping you become more memorable, which in turn means others are clearer and more focused on how to help you.
3. Show up in alignment with the above two points. Everything about you, from your attitude and appearance to your correspondence and conversation, gives off messages. What’s more, you have mere seconds to make a first impression. If your image doesn’t line up with whom you say you are and what you aspire to, then confusion, disengagement, and distrust can result. Be sure everything associated with you and your career or business is congruent with who you are and what you want.
4. Focus on quality, not quantity. People often believe that doing lots of networking and having hundreds of contacts and connections equal greater success. Not so fast! Rather than adding more new people to your network, invest some time identifying your most valuable connections; the ones who not only bring you referrals and opportunities, but also provide you with valuable insights, information, and support.
5. Say no with grace. Once you identify your top contacts and networking activities, you’ll start to see who and what no longer serves you. It will be easier to prioritize, which is crucial to your networking efficiency and success. Figure out who and what needs to be edited out (or given less attention). Gradually—and graciously—back away from those who drag, drain, and disenable you.
6. Focus on your best connections. Stay in touch with your best connections. This means reaching out and staying top-of-mind on a regular basis. Invest a few minutes each day to sending friendly, helpful, grateful, congratulatory, or supportive notes to your valued connections. The key is doing these things regularly and consistently.
7. Stand out in the crowd. You just never know where or when an important conversation will take place, when an opportunity will arise, or when you will run into a valued colleague or customer. Be ready, alert, and aware. Live your brand and allow it to guide how you show up and conduct yourself. Show genuine interest in other people by being the first to say hello, offering a professional handshake, and engaging in friendly conversation. Ask questions that show interest. Then take the time to actively listen to what others have to say. With a little extra effort and courtesy you can make connections and meetings so much more memorable and valuable, for you and for others.
8. Give first. This isn’t about giving away your expertise or time randomly. It’s about offering a positive attitude and a willingness to listen and offer ideas to those you meet. This dramatically separates you from people who focus only on themselves. Certainly it’s okay to be purposeful and focused on what you’re seeking, but sincere acts of generosity are rare and endearing.
9. Reap your reward. Consistently practice steps 1 through 8 and you’ll be on your way to making more powerful connections, earning more likability and trust, and attracting more referrals. But add one more step: thoughtfully, concisely, and most of all humbly (and without assumption) educate others on what you’re seeking and what constitutes good opportunities and referrals for you. If you are generous in giving to others, help them respond in kind.