It’s often said that time is our most valuable and constrained resource. Yet, we continue to spend so much of it commuting to get to meetings, events, and conferences. What if you could be just as productive in growing your network, but spend less time doing so?
The good news is you can! Without leaving your home or office, there are ample ways to network effectively. In the time in which you’d be driving, walking, or on a train, you can be connecting. And, most in-person meetings run longer than they need to because there’s a social expectation that they should.
However, when the physical context is changed and the conversation is remote, you can both build and deepen rapport, all the while making the duration shorter.
So, by doing this, you’re saving time to reinvest in other priorities and other relationships both between the meetings as well as during them.
Here are the five best ways to network without leaving your desk:
Ask for introductions
If you know what you need, reach out to your existing network and ask for connections. Be specific. Using a framework such as, “I’m looking for introductions to ______ because I can help them/I want to inquire about ______” is a good one.
I’ve seen success is doing this in multiple ways. You can post generally to your social media, ask within a Facebook group, make individual calls or texts, or do a targeted group email. Each has a place depending on the nature of your ask.
The easier you can make it for someone to say yes and connect you, the better. So, if you’re asking for an introduction to the CEO of a Fortune 100 company, it’s better to make this request of someone with whom you have a trusting relationship, instead of posting it generally online. Whereas, if you’re asking for an introduction to anyone who owns a local catering company, any of these methods could work.
Leverage Social Media
Social media is also called ‘social networking’ for a reason, and it has two major benefits when used strategically: 1. Staying in touch and 2. Building new relationships.
Here are strategies for both:
-Connect with everyone you meet online. It’s up to you if you want to keep your platforms separate for friendship versus business, but I prefer not to. I think the best business relationships stem from, or turn into, friendships, so I’m not shy to connect on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and/or Twitter. This allows you to see their updates, chime in or like, and stay in touch passively. It also keeps you top-of-mind for them when you post.
-Join Facebook and LinkedIn groups. Search for relevant groups that have active communities of people whom you’d like to know. Don’t look at it as a sales pool. Instead, look for places where you can grow strategic relationships, referral partnerships, or mentorship and advice. From there, customers can come. And in some cases, when you’re not looking for customers but engaging as peers, your peers will become customers. As in physical communities, you get what you put in. So be active and generous. Also consider inviting individuals whom you meet in the group to do one-on-one meetings to get to know each other more deeply. Then you gain a new relationship, and they may choose to advocate for you within the group, making your reach stronger.
-Look for life update alerts. Linkedin, in particular, has digests they email, and notifications when you open the platform to tell you when your contacts are celebrating work anniversaries, birthdays (as does Facebook), and job changes. Take note and send a note!
-Use the messaging options. If someone posts something and you’d rather engage more in-depth or privately, write them via the messenger or chat option. Open up a virtual conversation.
-Contribute. Regularly share what you’re up to by posting. Offer up how you can help. This could be by sharing a resource you have or a job that came across your desk. As stated earlier, don’t be afraid to ask for what you need on your status updates either.
Use tech to your advantage
While nothing replaces the benefits of being together in person, we can get pretty darn close thanks to technology. Utilize video and phone calls to connect when you’ve not met before. Make calls when you have a few extra minutes. Send a text or voice text to reconnect.
Short on time or money but want to attend a conference to learn and network? Find a great virtual one.
Have them come to you.
If you’d prefer to meet in person and it’s agreeable to the person/people you’re meeting, invite them to your location. Host them for coffee or lunch, or, have a group over for drinks or a dinner party. Then you get the added benefit of seeing multiple people at once and being the connector between each of them.
Fill the gaps
We all find ourselves with 5-10 minute gaps in our schedule. Consider using some of them to send a quick email, text or call to someone with whom you’ve not connected in a while. Those touch points can go a long way. You’ll find that they often will result in a new introduction, door opened, or idea. And they always help to progress a relationship.
People want to know they matter. These small gestures make you more memorable by demonstrating that they do.