Plug Into the Power of Existing Connections


Before anyone will
help you – give you a referral, partner with you on a project, whatever it is
you need – they have to know, like and trust you.

You already have a
big head start with existing contacts
people you’ve worked with before, have gone to
school with, live near, served on a charity organization with, etc —
but sometimes we’re so focused on making new connections that we
take for granted this rich resource that’s already in our grasp.

Rekindling those
connections is

like plugging into an electrical socket
. The current is there, the energy is
flowing somewhere behind the wall, but unless you have a way to get to it, you
can’t tap into the power.

If you’ve read “Smart
” you know that the very first networking event that I attended as an
entrepreneur, I ran out of the room after 5 minutes.

I failed so miserably meeting total strangers at events, I took a step back and
decided to re-start my networking efforts with people I already knew. I sat
down with about a dozen former co-workers, bosses, and classmates to have
coffee with them, find out what they were doing in their careers and
businesses, and let them know that I had left corporate America and was now an
independent consultant.

didn’t ask them to hire me. I didn’t ask them if they knew anyone looking for a
strategy consultant, I just focused on reestablishing the relationship. But of
course, through the conversation we had, they got a good idea of what my focus
was and what I was looking for.

those dozen meetings, I filled up my practice for the next two years. Some of my
contacts hired me directly. They already knew my work and knew they liked
working with me, so if they had a need, I was the obvious choice.

referred me to others in their network sometimes even 6-12 months later. They
were speaking to someone they knew who mentioned they needed help, and I got
the referral. If my contacts didn’t know I was doing this kind of work, they would
have recommended someone else.

guarantee that there are folks you know that you’ve forgotten about who can be
tremendously helpful to you. To rekindle the connection, first take deliberate
inventory and then take focused action

Write down every job you’ve had, every school you’ve attended, every networking
group you’ve been involved with, and every community organization you’ve
belonged to in the last 10 years.

Make a list of at least 50 people you haven’t spoken to in a while, focusing on
those with whom you had a solid relationship. This will be the
foundation of
your reconnection strategy
for the next 12 months.

Find as many of them as you can on LinkedIn and invite them to connect with
you, following the advice in
my post on the best way to write a LinkedIn
. LinkedIn is perfect for getting back on someone’s radar screen in
an unobtrusive way
. You’re not asking for anything, you just want to reconnect.

For those with whom you’re already connected on LinkedIn, read through their
profile to find out what they’re currently doing.
Start a conversation. Comment
on their status update, answer a question they posted, or send a brief message.

John, it’s been a while, but I was browsing through LinkedIn and noticed that
you’re working with ABC company. I’m at XYZ & Co., now and thought it would
be great to catch up and see if we can help each other in some way.”

Plan to get together with at least one person each week. While catching up by
phone saves time, it doesn’t have the
impact of a face-to-face meeting over
coffee or lunch, where you can be totally present with each other and not be
tempted to multi-task with email and web surfing.

Leverage your time even more by
organizing a group meeting. Invite 2-3 of your
contacts to a group lunch or after-work drinks. Not only will you be able to
reconnect with each one in a productive way, but you’ll also create an
opportunity for them to reconnect with each other.

At your meeting, ask questions and
show genuine interest in understanding their
current situation and needs. Listen for opportunities to connect them to
resources or contacts that can help them.

Be prepared to explain what you’re doing in a clear and concise way.
If people
can’t understand what you do, they won’t be able to help you
. A confused mind
takes no action.

Send a
follow up email after the meeting. Forward any info you promised you’d
send. Reiterate that you’d like to stay in touch and would be happy to help
them in any way you can.

not every interaction will generate new business for you, learning this process
of contacting, meeting and following up with existing contacts will improve
those relationships, open up a strong line of communication, and increase your
comfort and skill level in building meaningful new connections.

© 2010 Liz Lynch. All Rights Reserved

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