The Art of Altruistic Networking
I think by now there are more sound bites about ‘elevator pitches’ than there are elevators. I understand why people believe they need rapid-fire delivery of what they do and how they do it. We’re all deluged by information: to stand out, you have to be on point, snappy and memorable, right?
But may I just make one little point? You can only ride in so many elevators in one day.
What’s more, I don’t believe that a 30-second spiel is great pitching. Breaking the ice with people is hard, but when you hit them too quickly with the thing you sell, most run away. I don’t blame them.
The objective of a first meeting is not to complete a transaction. Rather, you simply want to spark a relationship and stay in touch with that person in a meaningful way. If you receive a person’s permission to contact them at a later time: congratulations.
Yes, you need to act fast to connect … not to sell
There is an element of art to networking. And it takes practice to plant the seed of a relationship when you’re limited to a few moments. But if you’re still focused on what you need, your attempt to connect is doomed to fail. That’s because the art of quickly establishing an authentic connection depends on putting the other person’s needs ahead of yours. Altruistic networking succeeds when we find genuine ways to offer service—but not the services we sell—at least, not right off the bat.
The Platinum Rule: Treat others as they wish to be treated
Even gold won’t do. Let’s make this rule platinum. You need to read people and understand their preferences and how they like to be approached. Of course, you must not forget your ask—you’re not pitching otherwise. But there are many ways to initiate the natural contact that matures into a valuable relationship:
- Practice … everywhere. Since altruistic networking embraces social skills we can use in many situations, you should hone your charm skills at parties, meetings, the line at the grocery store, anywhere you’ll encounter people you don’t know. If your neighbor is going on vacation, recommend a dog sitter you trust. If you meet someone you admire, suggest an idea that’s worked for you. (As I did the time I was introduced to a U.S. senator with many professional connections I’d love to have had. We broke the ice talking about my current book club pick). Don’t confine practice to networking events.
- Offer what you know. Nothing is more engaging than useful information. If the person is from out of town, make a restaurant recommendation. Share a link, lead, referral or idea. Be generous with your own connections.
- Maintain an abundance mentality. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself as a peer to someone in your industry. Talk about the tough stuff (even networking). Share ideas and be generous with your ‘trade secrets.’ It’s a big world and there’s enough for both of you.
- Keep multiple agendas. A robust marketing plan means keeping lots of balls in the air. Become a communications hub about events, both professional and social. Invite people into your world.
Action: Make good on your offer
Once you’re feeling a little more comfortable in the service mindset, you can focus on killer follow-through. Sadly, most of us don’t follow up on our good intentions, but this means you can shine by putting your money where your mouth is.
Once you find your opportunity to serve, make a promise you know you can keep to the person. Then, deliver on it faster than he or she expects. You’ll stand out as someone who gets things done. In this busy world, that’s a great way to get remembered.
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