I consolidated my rolodex last weekend in anticipation of sending holiday cards. As I was double-checking contact information, I reflected on how I originally met each person in my life. Did I meet them randomly, as part of a group, or perhaps through a specific introduction?
Looking at the big picture of these relationships can be enlightening. Here you see part of my business introduction network, mapped with NetDraw. My favorite part of the network is the long chain that begins with a random encounter with Kathy Kram (a professor of organizational behavior, whose son competed in a piano competition I organized) and leads ultimately to Steve Borgatti, guru of social network algorithms.
The origin of this notable chain is actually not all that random. In my own networking practice, I draw continually on lessons learned from my piano-selling former colleagues. Steinway reps, who think nothing of massaging several hundred separate leads through a two-year sales cycle, are some of the smoothest and most persistent networkers around. How do they do it? It takes a special breed. But it also helps to be anal about tracking contact information, including especially the date and context of each communication, and a specific reminder of when next to follow up. When each introduction takes two months (about average in my example chain above), tracking these data religiously is essential to good networking.
For a helpful complement to my Steinway ethnography, visit the website of networking guru Diane Darling, including "How to work a room."
Except where otherwise noted, Copyright (c) 2005 Connective Associates.