How To Become A People Connector & Master All Aspects Of Life
More than 85% of people’s jobs come from their network. Referrals and recommendations are clearly the best way to break into an industry and climb the ladder, across all of business. Yet, so many people are networking aimlessly, either without a plan, or with a bad one.
As critical as networking is, it’s easy to go about it looking for immediate gains and ignoring opportunities that are right under your nose. By playing the long game and focussing on your reputation as a positive influence in business, you can receive a boost in your career that you had no idea would be possible.
So, what’s different about being a connector? And how does it help you master your existence?
Whichever industry you’re in, as the driving force of a company’s prospects, your networking ability can make or break your future as a professional and your success in the industry.
Networking is a skill that creates and nurtures meaningful relationships with professionals in order to open up mutually-beneficial opportunities and business relationships. This means interacting with like-minded people, in a professional context but on a personal level.
There are a number of approaches to networking; classically, someone with little time or money who wants to network may benefit from a social media-driven approach, but someone looking for a more hands-on, community-oriented approach may prefer to volunteer or attend special events.
Either way, networking is about creating opportunities for yourself by meeting people who can find mutually beneficial arrangements with you. However, these benefits aren’t always immediately obvious and sometimes hunting for a rapid return on your networking investment isn’t the optimal strategy.
There are ways to maximize the potential of a professional network and one of the best is to focus more on being a people connector than simply a networker.
People Connectors Vs Networkers
There’s a lot of overlap in these terms. Essentially a people connector is a networker, but a one specifically focussed on building a powerful relationship – not just between themselves and their prospects, but also between separate third parties. This is driven by the idea that “what goes around comes around”, and the efforts that a connector puts in will be returned with interest in terms of respect and status in the industry.
Malcolm Gladwell describes a connector as “Someone who knows many people” and can spread an idea out far and wide to a varied and useful audience. These people occupy many different areas and bring people together from different worlds.
The goal of connecting people is to lean into the introductions and personal details of networkers and identify similarities between them, or needs that can be met by other networkers; then connect them to others who may have a solution and can benefit from their input.
Whereas commonly, networkers can often be self-absorbed or focused on getting their cards out to as many people as possible, the role of connectors is a more patient and fulfilling one that pays closer attention to what they can offer than what they are getting.
It’s a more altruistic approach to networking and creates elegant and organic connections between professionals. At the same time, it’s a worthy investment in your reputation if done right and comes with a wealth of benefits for the connector further down the line.
The Importance of Connecting People
Being known is a key to your success. Nothing solidifies your existence in the memory of your network better than remembering where they met their high-value connections. There is a certain attitude that connectors possess which brings with it high levels of credibility and respect, and when your name is mentioned, this will be the context in which you’re discussed.
People are programmed for mutuality. When you become more focused on giving, people will become more inclined to make the effort to give back. There’s an element of social justice involved in all transactions in networking, and while selfish people generate no sense of responsibility in their contacts, givers create the opposite.
So, when you create value in your network by adhering people to each other in a productive way, not only does it make you memorable, but it also gives them the idea that they want to pay you back for something you helped them achieve.
This reward may come as a referral or a recommendation and could land you your dream position or investment deal. All because you gave, even when you appeared to have nothing available in return, and made people feel valuable.
The benefits of being a connector come via more distant channels, and aren’t always immediately obvious but the strength of forming these organic ties and becoming someone people value is unmatched.
How to Be a Connector
So, how do you actually go about this? There’s a whole variety of ways you can affect people to connect with one another, but most of the fundamentals revolve around getting out there, paying attention to people, and looking out for similarities between contacts with a diverse set of skills and experiences. Of course, this isn’t something you can fake – it’s all about being genuine – so depending on what you’re good at, it could be easier or more difficult. Still, the basics are straightforward and can all be practiced.
Here are some of the most useful tips for becoming a connector.
Being a people connector is about quality over quantity. To start building quality connections, the first and most valuable skill you can practice is slowing down.
When you enter a room at a networking event it can be overwhelming, and it may seem like there are so many prospects around you to go after. It’s important to relax and pay attention. You’re going to learn whom to identify and how, but you can’t do this immediately, and you aren’t going to get the deeper connections by throwing your details around in a hurry.
Sit back, pay attention and get a feel for whom you’re sharing your space with. Listen. Even before your first interaction with someone, you can gather useful information that you might be able to use to match with other people you know.
Take your time, and remain composed.
Open Your Eyes
As much as your eyes take information in, they also give out a wealth of powerful signals. It’s important for your audience that they feel seen, and that you seem approachable. One of the best ways to accomplish both of these things is to keep your eyes open. People value being seen and it’s important as a connector to present yourself as seeing them; this comes from your eyes and a warm smile.
Of course, if you wander around wide-eyed and frightened-looking, you’re probably not going to get the desired response, but practice the balance between grinning like a simpleton and presenting a welcoming, approachable demeanor. If you have this presence about you, people will be curious to approach you and feel like you’re available for making a connection.
It’s not as difficult as it might sound, and authenticity goes a long way here. According to “superconnector” Michelle Tillis Lederman, Trust comes from authenticity, vulnerability, transparency, and consistency; so don’t try too hard to put on a front.
Take the Lead
Leadership skills are invaluable to people connectors. Initiating introductions by gathering people’s attention is a good place to start, and establishes yourself as a leader and a social connector. If you already have leadership skills or training, this is a great way to put them to use.
For example, if you know the most qualified or important person in the room, start with them and work around. This shows respect for status, makes certain people feel important, and immediately begins the process of connecting people as the entire group gets involved.
Leading in this manner can really put people at ease and create a good impression of yourself at the same time. It also gives you an opportunity to link two people later on by what they’re telling you in their introductions.
There’s nothing more powerful in socializing than remembering people’s names. For some people, this comes easily, for many of us it’s more of a struggle. Simply putting in the mental energy (or using a notepad) to prioritize this skill pays dividends in your networking.
Names are extremely personal and powerful, and if you can show that you’ve held onto them, you’ll make people feel valued and attended to before you’ve even done anything else to connect with them.
Once you’re good at this, it will be a good way to introduce two people and demonstrate your attentiveness to their existence at the same time. Again, this doubles up your memorability and credibility.
Names are a good place to start but to make good connections it’s important to have a good memory of what they are doing and how they’re doing it. Ask questions! This is particularly important if they’re in a discipline or industry that you’re not as familiar with and often people are more than happy to teach you a little about their work.
These facts will work as trigger words for you to find opportunities to connect people. You’ll also get a wider scope of how people from different industries can come together in an effective manner.
Again, if you have a bad memory, write things down. Key words on a notepad next to a person’s name can bring back vivid imagery of who they are and what they’re doing.
This can be during or after introductions, but if you’ve done your job of getting to know people in your group and taking in their information, you’ll probably even be able to find common ground between people at your table. This is an art in itself and can take practice, so make the most of the opportunity to learn.
People won’t remember anyone who introduced them to a contact they never ended up benefitting, so you have nothing to lose by trying out a few introductions. The more you do it, the better you’ll become at spotting who works and who doesn’t and this will increase the value of the connections you make in the future.
Introduce Yourself Last
This tip serves two main purposes. Firstly, it puts the group in front of you. It’s an act of humility and leadership that shows respect and self-control. Let people start by talking about what they know: themselves. It’s a lot easier to break the ice this way and can set people at ease. Once they’re warmed up, they’ll find it a lot easier to listen to your introduction.
Secondly, if you’re initiating introductions, saving yourself until last builds curiosity and greatly increases the power of your introduction. By the time it comes to introducing yourself you’ve got a group of relaxed and intrigued audience members to absorb a positive image of you.
Not only will you be regarded as being a charismatic leader, but you’ll also have a lot more people remembering what you’ve said, since they’re not preoccupied thinking about what they’re going to say.
Keep Making Connections
Building yourself as a connector of people takes time, and you are aiming to be known as the reason two people know each other. Imagine a group of people at a meeting you’re not a part of, asking how everyone knows each other and discovering that you’re the common denominator in the group; your name will get passed around as something they all have in common.
This will remind people of your significance, increase their admiration for you, and remind them that they want to offer you something in return. Your name will become passed around in other circles and you will be sought out for meetings with new networks. Having a reputation goes a long way to improving your chances of success.
The trick is to make this a long-term activity. Find the time in your schedule to do it regularly and build yourself up among different crowds. It can take some time for your efforts to be rewarded but it will happen, so don’t let up on the work. Maintaining this reputation shouldn’t be a chore.
Keep Weak Connections
It’s impossible to be well-versed in every field, but there is a huge advantage to branching out into different worlds to find your acquaintances. While your personal network needs to involve high-value individuals with a close and well-nurtured relationship with you, connecting people doesn’t need you to maintain this level of connection.
Connecting is about bringing people together from a wide scope of expertise and experiences. If you are only meeting people whose experiences are similar to your own, you’re dramatically limiting your potential reach for useful connections.
Attend events of people from industries in the periphery, find individuals whom you may not share much professional connection with, and hold onto them. They don’t need to be nurtured on a weekly basis, but keeping them fresh and in your back pocket may come in extremely handy when someone you know needs someone you know.
If weak connections are hard to keep track of, there are great opportunities to automate much of the heavy lifting with CRM software. Dex is perfect for reminding you whom to contact and when, and with its LinkedIn integration, you can consolidate all of your network in one place.
This is the key takeaway from each of these steps. Knowing the potential of meeting the right person it should be obvious that if you are the spark that ignites someone’s future, there’s going to be a hefty return on that value coming your way eventually.
The results of two or more people’s glorious success can be credited back to you, and this helps to establish you as an expert, as a driving force in your industry, and brings with it all the opportunities that come with that. Add value, even when if there’s nothing obvious to gain in return. This will create a powerful reputation as a facilitator and you will be rewarded for it indirectly.
Connecting people is simply a matter of modifying your networking approach. Focusing on high-value targets may help you build your personal network, but it can also prevent you from receiving the cascade of benefits that open up to you when you join people together.
There’s not always an obvious, immediate goal for the connector of two people, but it’s one of the best ways to build up a reputation as a leader, an authentic facilitator, and a respected figure in your industry. This reputation goes a really long way in making your business a success.
With these tips to give you direction, you can quickly become a people connector, and reap the rewards of a more altruistic approach to networking. This isn’t simply a marketing strategy for you as a brand, this is a skill that extends beyond business and into your everyday life and the lives of others. By connecting, you can open new doors and create a better world for everyone.