The Traditional Thing
We’ve all exchanged small talk and business cards with potential clients–in person or online– and then forgotten to follow up. Why does this happen?
First, we communicated with them in our “selling” (i.e. desperation) voice. And when they heard that voice, they disconnected. Second, we simply lost interest, a natural byproduct of transactional networking. Hello, lack of follow-through.
The Netgiving Thing
So here’s a thought. What if we focused on meeting people, truly connecting, and then giving something of value? What if we expressed curiosity, not just in business settings but throughout the dozens of encounters we have with people every day? Think family, friends, co-workers, acquaintances, neighbors but also the waiter or bartender at your favorite eating establishment, the cashier at the grocery store, Facebook friends, and LinkedIn contacts.
The concept is “netgiving,” and it’ll encourage you to become more relational, more strategic, and a higher-performing professional.
Netgiving in Action
A while back I worked in alumni relations. My job? Connect alumni to the college in a way that was meaningful for them while also raising money. Through LinkedIn, I met Eli Harris, founder and CEO of Give Back (packing)—an organization that helped recent college graduates transition to a career through summer volunteer travel program across four locations: New York, San Francisco, St. Johns, and D.C. I asked a contact of mine, a successful finance guy, to host a roundtable on leadership with his executive team. It was a great experience for him and the students. And that connection led him to join the Alumni Board of the college. This is a perfect example of netgiving. Let me break it down for you.
- What are you already curious about? Recycling, yoga, Russian novels, clean eating?
When I met Eli on LinkedIn, I was truly interested in helping him expand his Give Back (packing) program. It was a natural fit for me because I worked for a college in a networking role. I helped make some connections and was invited to go to St. Johns and teach a GiveBack(packing) session while volunteering alongside the students. I had an amazing experience and an unexpected benefit was that my contact (the finance guy) made his first of many donations to the college!
The Lesson: What’s your natural fit?
- Where can you expand your sphere of influence? Strike up a conversation just beyond your usual comfort zone.
Every person, both in-person and online, you interact with daily matters. When you strike up a conversation with someone while walking your dog or like someone’s post on social media, you’re probably not intending to meet your future business partner. But you might. That’s how I met Eli. Did you know that these “weak ties,” meaning someone you know as an acquaintance or perhaps someone you know from your past are often better at helping you in your job search than a close friend? It’s true. Marc Miller of Forbes explains why in “To Get A Job, Use Your Weak Ties.”
- Have you done your homework? After all, everything you need is already at your fingertips!
This is not rocket science. Search LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, websites, articles–well, you get the idea–for people you’d like to connect to. Because I met Eli online, I had immediate access to his education and work history, charities he was passionate about, and mutual connections. Before you go on a sales call, to a job interview, even to a parent-teacher conference, wouldn’t it be helpful to visit each person’s LinkedIn profile and find commonalities? LinkedIn sends alerts to people when they have new visits to their profile. This demonstrates care and curiosity. Read that last part again. You are interested in them. Netgiving focuses on the other person. Networking focuses on me. See the difference?
The Lesson: A little research goes a long way.
Throw out the old model of transactional networking and replace it with relational netgiving. When you focus on how you can help others instead of how every interaction benefits you, your relationship will improve. And given a little time, you’ll see how generosity leads ultimately to better business.
~Marc Garofalo is a senior recruiter at PeopleSuite. He works out of Athens and is an account manager for the greater Atlanta area. Marc is Northern-born and Southern-bred. He loves family, football, food, and fishing.