This afternoon, I had a lovely chat with my friend, Brian Gorman, who is part of a mastermind group that I’ve been working with this year. Here’s what Brian, who is also a coach, says on his website about change, which is something I think we can agree we’ve all had more than enough of in the past year.
Sometimes you’re all for it. Other times it ‘happens’ to you whether you like it or not. Every change—personal or professional—requires you to think and act differently than you do during ‘normal’ times.
The good news is, the patterns of every kind of change are consistent, which means even if you are in the middle of overwhelming change, you can change the way you approach it and regain control.”
One of the things we’ve all had to learn how to change is the way that we network. We’ve moved from seeing each other in person to doing more zoom calls and phone calls. We don’t do cocktail parties; we do online conferences. Many people doubt whether these even work, and depending on the way they’re structured, they do to a lesser or greater degree.
But in talking to Brian today about networking, he said to me that there are two key questions that you should leave every networking interaction with, and I realized these were questions that I’d never shared here on Zen. These will work whether you’re sending an email, talking on the phone, doing a zoom call, or even once we’re back in person:
- Who else should I be talking with?
- May I use your name as a reference?
When we get overwhelmed with change, it can help to get back to the basics, even in networking. It doesn’t have to be complicated. We’re a month into the new year, and presumably (hopefully) you’ve developed a plan for what you’d like to achieve this year when it comes to your business development and networking goals. As you go into each interaction with a client or potential client, a referral source, or another professional connection, consider asking these questions before you end the meeting. You may find that you’re able to create additional connections within your clients to increase the relationships with other stakeholders, learn about issues that may impact the level and type of work that you and your firm are doing for that client, or even just get a better understanding of the politics of your client’s position. You may gain an additional source of referrals for yourself or colleagues.
One final note – as you do this, consider too who else YOU can be introducing your connections to as you speak. While you’re asking for recommendations who would be willing to be a named reference, how can you reciprocate? It will strengthen the relationship – not only with the connection you’re currently speaking with but also with the person you introduce.