People often tell me I'm someone who "knows everyone." I'm flattered to hear this, of course, but it isn't true. Not even close. Sometimes I even think this is an excuse to avoid introducing me to others, an easy escape since I know everyone and there are no more introductions or connections to make.
It used to make me feel bad-let's be honest, I still want and need connections to stay in business!-but I've accepted the situation and use it as motivation to remain my usual self: an eager, proactive networker.
What does it mean to be a "proactive" networker? It's pretty straightforward.
First and foremost, I take action, especially when it involves putting people together. For example, I don't wait for folks to ask me, "Do you know a (fill in the blank)?" Rather, I choose to make introductions and connections because I can see the potential for a mutually beneficial relationship. This type of proactive networking may involve two (or more) individuals who:
* Have different types of businesses yet work with the same type of clients. They are not necessarily in direct competition; therefore they can likely make introductions for each other, not just to prospective clients but also referral sources that can increase their contact base.
* Have similar businesses but would benefit from some cooperative efforts. Collaboration between competing businesses need not be self-destructive; in fact, it can lead to sharing of ideas and may expand their scope of services.
* Have a shared interest or hobby that could be the foundation of a strong business relationship.
Many networkers don't have such a proactive outlook. They wait for someone to ask to make an introduction, which isn't really networking, nor is it maximally effective. Proactive networking at its finest is taking the initiative to help a fellow businessperson, to recognize possible synergies and act on a networker's intuition.
Let me ask you: do you want to engage in proactive networking? Do you want to be acknowledged by others as someone who "knows everyone?" Here are a few suggestions:
* Make it a part of your daily activities. Set aside 15 minutes during which you think about your recent and existing contacts and consider who you can put together because they meet some of the above criteria.
* After you attend a networking meeting, make 2 or 3 email introductions to others who were the meeting. It will take just a few minutes, and it's more likely to be done if it is top of mind.
* Think about initiating a smaller, more intimate networking circle. You may find it easier to engage a group of 5 or 6 people who are committed to making one introduction for each person in the group.
Most importantly, make your networking time count. There are not enough hours in a day to sit back and let connections come to you. Be proactive