I Don’t Carry A Bag

Company Culture, Public Relations Posted Feb 19, 2015 by chenpr

A different format from my usual monthly Tip Sheet post; this month I’ll share thoughts on things I’ve done to help keep in touch with people who might not be a part of my regular business or personal routine.

If you spend an appreciable amount of time at industry events, trade shows, business mixers or other get-togethers where professional people congregate under the pretext of networking—or if you are one of those people who can turn any occasion (such as a congregation of angry, frustrated commuters waiting for delayed trains at the bar in North Station… or so I’ve heard) into an impromptu meet-and-greet, you’ve probably accumulated a few hundred business cards and LinkedIn contacts. But let’s face it; no one has the time to keep in personal touch with that many people. kapow

What ends up happening is that many of the people we meet—and for whom there is genuine potential for establishing a strong, long-term and productive relationship—too often become indistinguishable from the hundreds of others who merely sent or accepted a LinkedIn invitation because it’s the polite thing to do.

Networking isn’t magic. It takes time and effort; a lot of time and a lot of effort. It takes a willingness to ask and commit to the line, “What can I do to help you?” And it also takes an ability to make quick judgments on which people you meet are worth more of your time and effort.

I have a simple rule that I use for exercising that quick judgment: I need to like you.

I don’t have time to suffer fools. I want to work with and hang around people who make my day enjoyable, and I try to return the favor. That may sound coldly calculating, but it’s realistic. People-pleasing, on the other hand, is unrealistic. If you look me in the eyes and laugh at my embarrassing ice-breaking line, we’re off to a good start. If you look past me for a better opportunity or grunt a response while mindlessly checking your iPhone, not so much. If you put out a vibe that says you think I’m beneath you, we’re probably not going to get along. If you treat me with simple grace and dignity, there’s a good chance I’ll knock down a wall for you one day if I have the chance.

Once we’ve made it past the awkward phase of introductions it’s up to me to follow-through, and this is where it gets tricky. I’m not a natural at this (as I’ve confessed before) so I need to find ways to prod myself along. As impersonal as it may seem, setting a weekly appointment as a reminder to find an excuse to send an email to someone is a good way to keep a trail from going cold. That note may contain an invitation for coffee or cocktails; that note may contain a link to an article that may be of interest to the other person; that note may contain a simple sentiment such as “hope you’re doing well.” For me it’s about finding out if there’s genuine chemistry or if it’s time to move on.

I don’t carry a bag, as the saying goes, nor do I have a quota. Sure, it’s good to answer a call for help and do business with or respond to a referral from a close contact, but the worthwhile leads almost always come after years of truly getting to know someone. What I’ve found is that when you take this approach you end up with a lot more friends, and that’s the true measure of success.