Networking Challenge #1: “WHY Should I Meet with YOU?”

business man in office BE 1Although most of us will not soon forget the challenges the most recent recession has brought. I still have vivid memories of the recession of the early nineties, at which point I was still fresh from college and green in my professional skills. It was also during this time that I began searching for a new job…and quickly learned the ups and downs of networking—lessons that so many people are discovering for the first time today.

One of the fundamentals of networking and meeting new people is the notion of a common connection: you know one person, who in turn introduces you to another whom they know, either through work or some other association. But what if that connection isn’t enough?

I recall one meeting long ago, when a friend in my church, Cyndi, suggested I call her boss, Bill, for a meeting. She had passed him my resume, and he told her it would be okay for me to call. So I did and we set up a visit.

When I met Bill, he was polite but not that outgoing. I visited him in his office where he had stacks of files all over the floor and his attention seemed to be elsewhere. He asked me a little about my work and I asked him about his, but I could see that this meeting was a dead end. Bill was not that keen to networking, and did not know me well enough to feel comfortable introducing me to his colleagues.

Nor did he seem to even want to get to know me.

In fact, the cold truth was clear: Bill was meeting me for only one reason: Cyndi asked him to. Our common connection was not enough to give that meeting any real purpose. Nor was I experienced enough to take it upon myself to give Bill a reason to want to meet with me, outside of forwarding him my resume.

But suppose I had such a reason? Perhaps on my resume was an accomplishment, such as streamlining a project management process that saved both time and money, and increased effectiveness—a suite of previous “employer benefits” in which Bill may have actually taken an interest? How might that meeting have gone then?

The truth is, when it comes to getting your foot in the door and meeting new people, especially in these times, you don’t always need a connection. What you need is a wedge. A wedge is a metaphor for creating influence through value. This approach begins with giving someone else a reason to want to meet with you. That is your task, especially in today’s challenging economic climate.

Think about this: when you focus on value that you can deliver, and do so in a way that you capture the interest and attention of your prospect, is that not far better than a common acquaintance? I say it is.

So as you network, keep leveraging your current relationships into new referrals and introductions. But be mindful that your most important fuel in growing these new relationships is one thing: the real and perceived value that you can deliver for someone else. With that fuel, you have something much better than a connection to get your foot in the door. You have a wedge.


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