By Scott Kriz
Building a network of people that you don’t get along with is completely pointless.
The Leadership Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question: What’s the best way to network? is written by Scott Kriz, CEO of Bitium.
All too often, I see people at networking events exchanging business cards and starting up superficial conversations for obviously one-sided, self-serving purposes. But what happens when you leave the happy hour or the conference? How many of those conversations resulted in something substantial? Networking should be viewed as the beginning of long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationship. While there’s no formula to creating a valuable network, there certainly are guidelines. Here are five lessons I’ve learned while building and strengthening my network:
When I was fresh out of college, I used to attend events and come home with a pile of business cards, trying to figure out how each person could benefit me in my career. Guess how many of those turned into valuable relationships? Not one. Realizing this, I stopped bringing cards with me to events. Instead, I started attending events with smaller groups of people and focused more on getting to really know everyone on a personal level. Over time, I found that people with whom I shared common personal interests tended to provide more value than those with closer professional ties.
Listen and ask questions
While I love sharing stories, I have never learned anything by hearing myself talk. So I try to focus on learning from other people’s experiences by taking a genuine interest in that person and asking them questions instead. For example, a few years ago, I found out the CMO from Microsoft had retired and was living in Southern California. Marketing has always been an area that fascinated me because it didn’t come naturally. I wanted to learn about marketing from the top mind in B2B marketing software so I could better understand it for my own business.
Through my network, I found out that she was going to be at a local accelerator event so I decided to attend as well. It’s amazing how generous people are with their time and their knowledge when you express genuine interest. Mich Mathews is now an investor and board member for Bitium–and a close friend of mine.
Seek out people that you like
Building a network of people that you don’t get along with is completely pointless. Every one of us has our own opinions, tastes and tolerances. Spend your time with people you like and you will find natural alignment. When I started my current company, I was lucky enough to have a co-founder that I had enormous respect for both personally and professionally. We wanted to hire the smartest employees, of whom we also enjoyed working with. Everyone on our current team has been hired through a personal or professional connection. I’m proud of this, not only because I love what we do as a company, but because I love the people that I am building the company with.
Put yourself in someone else’s shoes
Some of the best networkers that I know are busy and overcommitted by nature. In order to leverage their networks appropriately and get the introductions I want, I’ve found that the less intrusive and more specific that I can be, the more likely they are to help out. Put yourself in the shoes of the person who is being solicited and read the content of the email as if you are that person. Make your email request is concise, specific, not completely self-serving and most importantly, easy for them to forward on to the person you want an introduction to. Help them help you.
Remember that everyone is just a person, no matter what they have achieved or how well-known they are. It’s easy to get star struck when meeting someone you’ve read about or who is considered a ‘celebrity’ in your industry. Approach them like you would anyone else at an event. Too many times people try to force a conversation because they really admire someone and want nothing more than to be associated with that person. Relax, have fun and don’t try to foster relationships that aren’t natural.
Read all answers to the Leadership Insider question: What’s the best way to network?
How to work a room at an important networking event by Carol Leaman, CEO of Axonify.
The one question you have to ask everyone you network withby Clark Valberg, CEO of InVision.
3 signs you’re a serial meet-and-greet networker by Shadan Deleveaux, director of sales multicultural beauty division at L’Oréal USA.
Forget what you know about networking. Do this instead by Jim Yu, CEO of BrightEdge.
3 networking mistakes you don’t know you’re making by Dan Finnigan, CEO of Jobvite.
Why face-to-face networking will never go out of style by Kevin Chou, co-founder and CEO of Kabam.
How to effectively network (even if you dread it) by David DeWolf, president and CEO of 3Pillar Global.
The only thing you need to keep in mind when networkingby William Craig, founder and president of WebpageFX.
Why social media alone won’t get you a job by Gary Vaynerchuk, co-founder and CEO of VaynerMedia.
NYSE President: I owe every job I’ve ever had to networking by Tom Farley, president of the NYSE.
In today’s hyper-connected and transparent marketplace, brands and products arrive and depart at hypersonic speeds.
According to the 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer, For the first time, trust and transparency are just as important to a company’s reputation as the quality of their products and services. In U.S.A., these two elements stand even higher than product quality.
Cautious of fraud, scams, and scheming marketing tactics, customers are beginning to perceive the world defined by genuine or contrived. More often than not, they’re basing their buying decisions on how authentic they judge an offer to be.
Unfortunately though, many companies don’t practice trustworthiness and credibility. Alternatively, they attempt to grow their firms based what they believe customers want to hear.
But listening to prospects and customers and mindlessly responding back what they state isn’t going to earn trust or relationship capital from the customer. It is not about deceiving people with amazing commitments. Rather, it is about courageously proclaiming what you believe, and then withdrawing to observe who is attracted to your idea.
Credible brands are able to earn a loyal following; a social community, so to speak. Happy customers will share their experiences with peers and friends, and if the company stays true to its messaging and continues to deliver products and/or service that are in alignment with the customers’ hopes, it will be on the path toward building a relationship capital brand built for the long-run.
If you’re thinking of elevating your organizational culture, launching a startup or developing a brand, think of the 4 attributes of earning Relationship Capital (RC):
Take the Free Relationship Capital (RC) Test. I welcome you to take this assessment in confidence as we never share this information outside Standard of Trust.
5 Steps For Building Trust And Credibility
The following steps are by no means the only ways to build trust, credibility, and relationship capital, but they are the most important.
1. Define Your Purpose and Guiding Principles
The first step is to determine what your credibility is composed of. You will need to choose which guiding principles you are willing to commit to no matter what. If you commit to the open standard principles of Relationship Capital (RC), they are the following:
Your ability to embed this relationship capital guiding principles into your company’s purpose will be an effective way in earning and building relationship capital with your stakeholders that will sustain long-term distinction.
For example, the Purpose of the Standard of Trust Group is:
To make a difference to business organizations and their stakeholder relationships through the capture, measurement, and utilization of open standards of relationship capital. To assist business leaders and their organizations to compete by out-behaving the competition.
Let me “Warn” you. Do not make superficial commitments to the relationship capital guiding principles or other principles you may select. Inauthentic behavior will be found out by the social and digitally connected tribe and your reputation and credibility will be damaged
2. Determine How You Will Demonstrate Authenticity
Look for the moments to demonstrate your authenticity. Whether it’s online with social media or your LinkedIn blog, or in offline interactions with others, take the time to learn and understand your audience and permit to learn and understand you too.
3. Be Open
How far would you go to show your authenticity and credibility? Decide how you will demonstrate your guiding principles and how open you want to be. Then make a plan of action for showcasing this openness.
4. Be Consistent
Keep your communications consistent. The messages that you’re sending out through marketing, promotions and social media should be in alignment with the offline experience that you provide to customers.
5. Prepare For Resistance
Finally, get ready for the resistance. When you build a certain level of awareness, you’re going to get people who oppose. Don’t let this dishearten you or sidetrack you from your guiding principles and purpose. Stay committed to your principles, and you will earn respect (and relationship capital) from the people around you. Your loyal and customers, employees, partners, and brand ambassadors will defend and support you.
Whether a business leader, entrepreneur or startup, committing your authentic self is about being true to your guiding principles and fulfilling your stated commitments to your stakeholders (customers, employees, or partners).
Leading with authenticity is not for everyone, but those who decide to utilize this as the foundation for establishing or nurturing a relationship capital business or a relationship capital brand will learn that building a company based on purpose, performance, and relationship capital will provide sustainability despite the accelerating changes that may come in the future.
By Robert Peters
Sources: Standard of Trust: Leadership