People do business with those they know, like and trust.
And those three factors are what will ultimately lead others to vouch for you – by knowing, liking and trusting you to some degree. The accumulation of being known, liked and trusted over time leads to, what I term, a KLT score. The higher the KLT score you have with a person in your referral network, the higher the likelihood that they will vouch for you.
But it takes time to build
Let’s look at how you might do that.
Romance your connections
Think about the last person you romanced. Did you wine and dine them? Put a lot of effort and thought into getting them to like you, and eventually fall in love with you?
In his book Customer Romance, Peter Applebaum likens his strategy for customer relationships to the flow that happens as a romance develops. Similarly, I believe networking is akin to romancing someone.
The initial attraction
*Initiate contact with your tie
This is where the relationship is effectively established. You should start by thinking about what is important to your connection. You can do this either based on first-hand knowledge from previous encounters, or via research into their social media profiles.
Once you have this information, you’re in a good place to reach out to them and start warming them up for your future pitch. My preferred way to initiate contact is by sending newsworthy items, like articles that are relevant to their job or a particular interest of theirs. Just as flowers and chocolates are the currency of a romance, information is the currency in professional networking.
Finding things in common
*Create relevance in your interactions
Be consistent in how you communicate with your contact. You should also make it clear why you’re reaching out. Don’t pretend to be their long-lost best friend. Be concise, honest and, if appropriate, ask if you can meet for a coffee to pick their brain.
The first date
*Take your contact for a coffee
Once you are past the initial, awkward stage, you start “dating”. I’m sure you’ve heard the dating advice that you should never just talk about yourself. Instead, you should act interested and ask questions of the person you’re trying to get to know.
The same is true for networking. With a face-to-face encounter, things start to get more personal. You can ask for advice on your situation, but ultimately, you want to be interested, not interesting. (Face to face could be also via video conferencing, now that this has become much more acceptable. )
According to Dale Carnegie, author of How to Win Friends and Influence People, a good conversationalist listens intently and appears genuinely interested. Be a good listener and encourage the other person to talk by asking questions they will enjoy answering. Not only will you leave a good impression, but you’ll also find out all manner of helpful information.
Becoming deep and meaningful
*Begin the journey of reciprocity
It’s here you either figure out what they might need help with, or ask them outright. Ultimately, you want to help them, before making your pitch for how they might help you.
Here’s an example that demonstrates the benefits of helping someone who hadn’t even asked for it.
I knew Mary, because we were connected on LinkedIn. As an HR expert, I noticed some inconsistencies in her profile, regarding where she was currently employed. So, I reached out to Mary to let her know. She was thankful as didn’t believe she would ever have noticed those inconsistencies and was glad to be able to correct them.
Now, Mary happened to be employed by a prominent law firm. She mentioned to someone at work about how I had helped and as a result, I was soon hired to help others at the firm with their LinkedIn profiles.
You can see how just one small act, had a big payoff.
So, why did Mary do such a thing? It’s all due to the rule of reciprocity, one of six psychological universals of persuasion (the other universals are liking, social proof, authority, scarcity and consistency). According to Robert Cialdini, author of best-selling book Influence, “The rule of reciprocity possesses awesome strength, often producing a “yes” response to a request that, except for an existing feeling of indebtedness, would have surely been refused.”
In other words, this means you can often facilitate a willingness to help in the other person, simply by doing something for them first. Interestingly, a study found that the rule of reciprocity is so strong that it doesn’t even matter whether that person likes you – they are wired to want to repay that debt regardless. Although, of course, it’s far better in a networking situation to have someone like you!
*Make your pitch
This is a rewarding stage – in a romance, this may be where the mutual decision is made to be “together” or “exclusive”.
For networking purposes, now that things are comfortable, the time is ripe to make your pitch, and hopefully, move your job search forward. It’s important that you continue to provide consistency and relevance in your interactions and you’ll be pleased to receive the help you need for job search success – whether in the form of an introduction or recommendation.
Earning and repaying trust
*Be consistent in your actions
If you’ve been successful and your contact has said yes to your pitch, it’s time to make the most of it. Follow through on everything they have set up for you – whether that’s attending an interview they’ve invited you to, or following through on an introduction they have been kind enough to facilitate.
Do everything in your power to not only achieve job search success with the provided opportunities, but to appear grateful in the actions you take.
Happily ever after
*Keep as many people as possible off your weak tie list
While lovers are settling into a long-term relationship, as a networker, your aim is to keep as many people as possible off your weak tie list. This keeps you in the picture for future opportunities, and, of course, means you don’t have to start your networking efforts from scratch, the next time you need help.
As for your dormant ties, more often than not, these can happily slip back into a dormant state. Just don’t drop them like a hot potato once you have what you need. Continue to reciprocate, but know that it’s OK to gradually peter off in your efforts.
In early October 2020 he launched his groundbreaking new DIY Career Coaching series of books. This trilogy will guide you step-by-step through the process of finding Career Clarity (figuring out your dream job), becoming an expert at Career Networking (unlocking the hidden job market), and achieving Career Success (being amazing once you GET the job).
You can purchase the books here.