Networking is just part of the deal these days. If you want leads, you network. If you’re looking for a job, you network. If you’re looking for a date, you network. You network until your bladder can’t stand the thought of another cup of coffee, and then you get up and do it again. We all do it. And many of us do it poorly.
Today I met with a guy who does it better than anyone I know. Much better. So much better that I wish he’d network with me MORE. How many folks can you say that about?
I won’t use his name because he works at a bank and I don’t want to get him in trouble by using his name in a way that some regulator thinks is inappropriate. The thing is, I’ll bet that if you know this person I wouldn’t have to tell you his name…you’ll recognize him. I’ll call him Al because I can’t keep calling him “that unnamed guy I’m talking about who I don’t want to get in trouble with the regulators”.
I’ve known Al for more than a year, and we met again this morning. Though I didn’t know it at the time, while I was driving to our meeting Al was having his assistant email me a list of people that Al wanted me to meet. The list gave me detailed information about each person and their respective businesses. As soon as we sat down Al started going through each name on the list, telling me about the person, and outlining reasons why he thought it made business sense for us to meet.
Al had actually PREPARED for the networking meeting, and the way he had prepared was totally focused on what he could do to help ME.
Not a word about the bank. Not one. Occasionally I’d try to talk about his business, but he got us back on task quickly because he wanted to make sure he briefed me on every single person he’d identified before leaving for his next meeting. No pressure, no “now it’s my turn”, no self-interest at all.
That, my friends, is how it’s done.
Why? Because I left today’s meeting with Al with much more than a free cup of coffee and another networking notch on my belt. I left with introductions that had been thoughtfully identified by someone who wanted to help not just me, but the people he wanted me to meet.
So why does this make him a great networker?
Because I left our meeting thinking “Wow, Al has done me a giant favor. I can’t wait to return it.”
And I will. Hopefully soon, and certainly long before I spend time trying to figure out how to refer business to one of the speed-dating networking connections I’ve made in Starbucks meeting-hell. Not because those people are bad. They aren’t. I just don’t owe them anything.
Al, on the other hand, I owe big time. And he won’t have to call in my marker, I’ll break my neck looking for ways to pay him back. I’ll bet this is how Al handles most of his networking meetings, and I’ll bet that there are lots of folks like me out there who can’t wait to pay him back.
Thanks for the meeting today, Al. And thanks for the lesson. You know who you are.
Jeff Whittle is Managing Director of Whittle & Partners Consulting, and the President of The Alternative Board – Metro Dallas. He regularly kicks around business issues on his blog, and you can follow him on Twitter @jeffwhittletx. Here’s the link to the Whittle & Partners Facebook page…we’d love for you to like us!
Meet the Founder
Jeff Whittle founded and launched Whittle & Partners in 2011. Before that, Jeff practiced law in Dallas for 15 years and has an additional 20 years of executive business experience. He has run businesses ranging from startups to 300-employee operations.