You know how in caveman times they had assigned roles for everyone in the group? Some members of the community were assigned to be gatherers. Their job was to go out in to the forest and collect as much edible stuff as possible. They weren’t supposed to be choosy. As long as it didn’t kill you – pick it or pull it up and bring it home. The objective was not quality it was quantity. Much of what they gathered was never used – it just sat in the drawers of the cave (I’d love to see what a cave drawer looked like) because they really needed was the good stuff from the hunters. The hunters now – they went out with intent. In the morning, as she handed him his packed lunch, Mrs. Caveman would say to Mr. Cavemen, “you know I really fancy a wooly mammoth today. Little Rocko needs a new blanket so I could use the coat and you know how nicely mammoth meat goes with those blueberries we found yesterday.” Mr. Caveman would then kiss Mrs. Caveman goodbye and off he would go, looking for a mammoth. He was hunter.
Here’s your problem (and everyone has had this problem so don’t feel bad), you treat networking like gathering. You head off to a conference or event, walk around talking to people superficially collecting handfuls and handfuls of business cards (which aren’t even edible by the way), get home, put them all in a drawer and never look at them again. You may even feel satisfied because once in a while you need something, remember you met someone who could help you with that, fish their card out of the drawer and look what a good networker you are! Most of the time though all those cards, all those hours of gathering, are wasted – all those blueberries just rotting in the cave drawer.
The root of the problem is this – networking is about hunting, not gathering. Before you leave the cave to go out for a day or week of networking you must be very clear on exactly what it is that you would like to bring home… do you need a new wooly mammoth blanket? And what goes with blueberries?
Here’s how you network like a hunter (or at least as close as I could get with such a bizarre metaphor… cavemen, I ask you…?)
Before you even head out for the hunt you need to know what you are looking for. You don’t just go out there and shoot at everything so you end up with have no arrows left for the wooly mammoth Mrs. Caveman wants (you see I’m lost already – did cavemen even have arrows?)
Are you looking for a partner with a specific skill set? Are you looking for someone to help you spread the word about a new product? Are you looking for a mentor that you can turn to who has success in a particular industry? You must be very specific about exactly what you want to bring home. The best networker/hunter I ever met was a matchmaker (a fantastic lady). She went to every event with extremely specific requirements for who she wanted to meet as matches for her clients – and she always walked away successful.
Look at the list of speakers – do any of those folks fit your criteria? Get on to Twitter and use the event hashtag to strike up conversations with as many folks as possible and then look them up online. Do you any of those folks fit your criteria? Many events will have a Facebook page or sometimes a list of attendees on their website – you know what to do. Before you leave for any networking opportunity you should have a list of at least three specific individuals that you would like to make contact with and why.
Choose Your Weapon
Choose the right weapon. I wouldn’t imagine you could bring down a wooly mammoth with just a superficial wound from an arrow, just as you can’t establish a relationship with a superficial conversation. (OK I’m really losing the metaphor here. Disclaimer… I am not asking you to wound or slay your networking targets).
In this case, your weapon is something of huge value you can offer to your target. The best way to make an instant connection with someone is to offer them something of value. Research each person on your pre-identified list and figure out what problems they may have that you could help solve. When you meet someone who is not on your pre-identified list, but who meets your pre-identified criteria, focus exclusively on figuring out what value you could bring to their lives/business.
Plan Your Follow-Up
Always establish a follow-up plan. How does your target like to communicate – Twitter, Facebook, Phone, In-Person? Tell your target exactly when and how you will follow up with them and then do it. Write on the back of the card that you give them, “I will follow up with you on ______ via _______ so that we can further discuss (thing of value)”. I’ll bet you that your card stays on the cave table and doesn’t go in the cave drawer with the rest of the blueberries (see how I did that? Didn’t think I could get a metaphor in there did you?)
Don’t Underestimate Chance
So say you are out hunting for the wooly mammoth and a gorgeous, yummy looking saber tooth tiger struts by. Do you ignore it? I don’t think so. It’s an easy shot and Mrs. Caveman loves tiger meat. When you are out hunting/networking you should likewise leave yourself open to opportunity. Just because the person you have found yourself in conversation with doesn’t meet your pre-identified criteria – don’t walk away. Serendipity is a powerful force and you never know who might walk across your path.
So get out there and network like a cavemen. Pre-identify exactly who you would like to meet and why. Figure out what you have to offer your networking targets so that you can establish an instant mutually beneficial relationship. Have a clear and precise follow-up plan. Leave yourself open to unexpected connections. Don’t go home from an event with only a drawer full of blueberries to show for it.
Do you have any additional networking tips to add? Or any advice on how I could improve my caveman analogy? Please add it to the comments below.
LIVE THE CODE(find out more about the Galahad’s Code Of Chivalry)
Largesse — Be generous with your blessings, the universe will respond
Loyalty — Be loyal to your commitments, always follow through
Courage — Take a deep breath and approach that superstar - she is a person too
Location-Independent Entrepreneur & Certified Life Coach, Galahad, Wife, Mum, & Adventurer. Co-Founder of Galahads - The Secret Society for Kick-Ass Women. Founder & CEO of Emily Rose Doll Clothes and Wish Doll Company. Founder & CEO of Laptop Life Lisa. Finding the revenue and results inside every entrepreneur. Mum of a rocking 14 year-old daughter visit her at TheOneAndOnlyEmTV. Lucky wife of her soul-mate and fellow adventurer, Mark. Traveling the world while running four businesses and raising a teenager. Journey from the last 6 weeks? Bahamas to Scotland to England to France to Switzerland, currently hanging in Borgo Val di Taro, Italy. @LaptopLifeLisa