Professional networking

find out how to network using this technique

You often meet interesting people. You exchange business cards and then nothing happens. This might be someone in your industry who has good connections or has great ideas for your business. But your opportunity to build a relationship is gone.

Relationships and networks are important. Think about the problems you have right now. Now you’ve probably already met someone that could help you with each and every one of these problems but they are not in your network. Why - because making a good impression and building a relationship doesn’t automatically happen. I’m going to share with you a technique that I’ve developed for making introductions meaningful and useful. In fact I’ve had such good results with this technique that I am a little reluctant to share it. It’s based on a few simple universal principles: 1. Establishing a reason for a dialogue, 2. Building intimacy through sharing, 3. Making yourself seen as someone who is helpful and 4. The principle of reciprocity. This will make your introductions count. Quality over quantity.

The technique is simple: When you meet someone ask them what their three biggest problems are. 

It’s better to soften the statement by introducing it by saying something like: “Would you be interested to try an experiment? I usually do this when I meet someone and it's always been useful”. This works because: 

  • People are usually willing to try something new when it is presented as an experiment
  • They have a low expectation of success and 
  • You give them some social proof that other people are doing it and have had good results.

It’s also helpful to put someone in the right frame of mind by saying something like “If you could wave a magic wand - what are the three things you would like to happen or to get fixed”

What if you can't help?

Now the greatest thing about this is that even if you can't help them just the exercise alone is beneficial. To paraphrase Peter Drucker: The key to effectiveness is to focus on a small number of the most important items. This exercise helps the other person to achieve some clarity about what their most important focus areas should be.

So I suggest you also say: “I can’t promise to help, but the exercise is beneficial in itself”

Karma and more:

Now some of you may be thinking - why on earth would you want to help this person with their problem? You have your own problems to solve so you don’t have the time to help out people that you don’t know very well. Personally I think it’s this is a good thing to do but as I will show you there is both an altruistic and selfish motive:

I’ve had a lot of help and I couldn’t be where I am without people helping me out. If we all expect the other person to make the first move nothing good will ever happen. So firstly I believe this is a values based thing. There is a movement called “Paying it forward”. If you have a few minutes to watch an inspiring, award winning movie, then watch this:  

But even if you don’t believe in Karma, there are a lot of direct benefits to you. When someone tells you their three problems a lot of things are going on:

  • You have a basis for future communications and relationship building. 
  • They have shared something important with you which makes them feel like they have more than casual relationship with you
  • It may identify the person as a potential customer and give you some very useful  information to help convert them into a client. Because if people have a problem they will be willing to buy a product or service to solve it
  • There is an incredible powerful driver of human behavior called the principle of reciprocity. If you do a favour for someone they will feel obligated to return the favour. In fact I often get asked what I want help with immediately afterwards. Imagine that: someone who was a stranger a short time ago is making a genuine offer to help me with my problems!

So you don’t have to wait for Karma - make a genuine effort to assist the other person and your reward will come.

Don’t forget that even if you can’t help them, you might know someone that is able to help them. This other person will appreciate the introduction.

TIP: Don't wait for an opportune occasion to get back in contact with them - schedule a reminder in your diary, 1 month, 3 months and 6 months. Relationships are built on regular contact.

What if they aren’t a nice person and don’t appreciate your favour? This has the risk of making you feel unappreciated. The spirit of this isn’t to only do this just because you get something back. There will be times when you give more than you get and vice-versa. If you can’t accept that then you shouldn’t do this. But it’s also a good way to learn if the person is someone you want in your network or not. And better to learn that now with something less important.


A key to success is successful networking. And the key to successful networking is to focus on the quality of the connections, not the quantity. I don’t always do this but when I do I have a really good response resulting in a better relationship and people asking me how they can help me. Perhaps this technique isn’t for you if you don’t believe in Karma or don’t believe in doing favours. But if you are prepared to try it out it doesn’t take much to experiment.

Next steps:

There’s nothing like the present to get started. Do you think you could take a few minutes to share your problems with me and the readers? This is a live experiment to see how this works on the internet and I think it would be cool if you could be part of trying this out. List your top problems that you wish you could wave a magic wand and have them go away. I’m not promising that I can help but if I can’t maybe another reader will be able to. I’m also not sharing any winning lottery numbers with you so don’t ask for that! Put them in the comments below or on the LinkedIn page or onto the Facebook page.

I will give you an example by telling you what I want. This is a way for me to share my problems with you but you will see that I've carefully picked topics that help both of us:

  • I want you to try this. Plus, if you like the concept then share the message with others. My goal is that this message gets out so that someday when someone meets me they ask me about my top three problems. That would be supercool. There are the usual social sharing icons, email it or click here to tweet this. Something that would also help to spread the message is to share your experiences in the comments
  • After you share your top 3 problems, you have opened the door for a solution to find you. But you’re going to have to do some work yourself. So the next thing I want you to do is simply think about this: What are you currently doing to fix these problems? If that isn’t working out can you try something else? And what are you doing to stop spending time on distractions that are holding you back from reaching your true potential?
  • I am spreading the message of the Management Sweetspot. This vision is to make work more enjoyable and satisfying for employees, to make the lives of manager’s easier and in the process improve company performance. I believe this is a great cause but I can’t do it without your help. Firstly, if you haven’t signed up for the “Managing made easy” email series then please do so. It’s not just for me, it’s for your staff, your company and yourself. Secondly, I’m looking for people who also believe that we should be happier at work because we spend so much time working. I have a “super-user group”. This is an inside-track to get access to pre-release material, to help set the direction of the Foundation and to become known as a thought leader in employee engagement. Join here or share this with someone you think is appropriate

PS: I hope you like my help topics - I've picked easy ones that are as beneficial to you as they are to me ;-)


Do you have any questions, comments or tips about networking? Help the rest of us out by sharing in the comments below.

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