This week, my cohort of C level and partner level women met for the monthly SheSuite roundtable. Each woman shared a challenge and crowd sourced a solution from the larger group. One of the challenges was “How do I get more strategic about my networking?” In New York, we could go to an event every single night. But it can get exhausting, and not always produce the results we are looking for.
In this post, I outline 7 steps I have taken to building and following up with a network. It’s called the “Circle of 90” and is a culmination of learnings from different coaches and experts I’ve trained with or interviewed over the years.
Step 1: Get clarity on your goal and who you are looking for.
Someone once shared a wonderful allegory related to this: If I tell you to “Please pick up my cousin at the airport,” you may say ‘yes,’ but I’ll be darned if you are successful.
There just isn’t enough detail.
If I tell you “My cousin is coming in on a Delta flight at 2:30pm EDT. Please pick her up,” you have more handles for success, but its still not enough. I haven’t even told you the airport. If I say, “Please be at JFK tomorrow by 12:30pm as my cousin is on an inbound flight from Detroit, Delta flight number 1978, arriving at Terminal E at 12:00pm, ” you have enough detail to successfully locate her and pick her up.
Networking is the same way. If you don’t have clarity on the goal around which you are networking, and what you hope to achieve, its hard to get to your goal. Plus you’re just tired.
Step 2. Look at your goal, look at your network, and see what gaps need filling.
For example, I’m looking for clients who could potentially be in my Mastermind or need better storytelling skills during a VIP Day. As a result, I don’t attend free events anymore.
I’m charging a fair amount, I’m looking for events with a higher barrier to entry.
If the women are investing in themselves to attend a dinner, then they are more likely to invest in their personal development again.
Its not a perfect recipe, but it works for me.
Step 3: Learn to ask
This is hard for women, but with a little practice, it becomes easier. Start with your existing network, and say ‘this is what I am looking to do, who should I talk to?’
My friend Jane is attending the polo tournament tomorrow in Greenwich as a member of the press. It sounded like so much fun. I asked if I could tag along.
Step 4: Create a system for deciding who to add to your network.
To help you decide when you meet someone new, networking book author Judy Robinett suggests to ask:
- Where did they come from?
- Do our values match?
- Can I provide them with value now or in the future, and vice versa
Step 5: Create a system for starting your network
I found this system in Judy Robinett’s book for networking. She says our brains are only capable of keeping track of up to 150 people. I adapted it and toggled it down to 90 people. It was a more manageable number for me. I arranged them into the following groups for networking:
- Top 5: I put the ‘bell notification’ on the profiles in LinkedIn I plan to comment on each day. These are profiles where interesting conversations are already underway. I’m adding value by commenting as well.
- Key 35: Friends and associates whom you know you can call upon for help and advice. They will answer your calls straight away. You know you can count on them.
- Vital 50: People who are important in your life, who add value to you and vice versa. More than a casual acquaintance. There should be a variety of locations, professions, life contexts etc in this group. Keep in touch with these people once a month at least, even if it’s a tweet, a text or a phone call.
Step 6: Create a system for following up with your network
Excel Tracker. I learned this from a Mastermind hosted by Julia Pimsleur. Keep an excel document with the person’s name, the date last followed up, what was sent.
I use Tweetdeck to program in topics that are of interest to me.
For example, I talk about storytelling and AI. I set up columns for both subjects.
This way, I’m seeing what questions people are asking. It also allows me to discover new information. Always cross check of course.
I listen. Susan just told me she is going to Istanbul in August as well before she goes to Palermo. I am going to one and have already visited the other. I’m networking with her (online) by sharing blog posts on what I’m looking forward to seeing in Turkey.
Social media makes it easy to:
- Follow up by commenting with value on people’s posts.
- I turn on the “bell notification” on a person’s LinkedIn to get an alert each time they post.
- If someone likes my post, I DM them, asking what in particular resonated for them.
- Many times, I will repost someone’s post with my own thoughts.
Create events. Yao Huang hated networking. She started hosting Wonder Women dinners to invite people she wanted to network with to a predetermined destination. Today, as an investor and board member, she hosts these dinners all over the world.
Invite people to things you are already going to. I love going to the ballet, the chamber orchestra, the opera, galleries, and wine education classes. I sign up by myself, and always invite people I would love to network with to them. Its a fun, light way to deepen a relationship without the heavy lift of going to a Chamber of Commerce event.