Many smart women know how to succeed academically or do a great job in the office, but how many realize that most of their professional lives are determined by "who they know?"
Who do you know?
Who do you work with?
Is “who will help us?” your first question when you tackle a new project or initiative?
The "who" question, probably the most important question, will be the first to pop into your mind when you need to find contacts that help you with your current task at hand.
For example, if a catering company commits to landing five new clients, all in the $15k - $20k range per event, which questions might they ask?
The question of WHY?
Probably not a great starting question. If you've committed, then start "dialing for dollars" to find who will help you get your project rolling.
The question of HOW?
True leaders find others to help them do the mechanics of the work. If you don't know how to do a project, find someone who does know: this relates from line staff all the way up to C-level executives.
The question of WHEN?
Your timeline totally depends on the involved parties. With lackluster people on your team, expect lackluster results. With stars on your team, start rolling immediately and arrive at your destination more smoothly. Your answer to the “who” question makes a big difference.
The question of WHAT?
Who you know determines the answer to this question. Find a networking princess, an early adopter, a well- connected person, or someone more experienced to give you tips and advice on solutions. Find information through people who best know the type of project you’re planning to accomplish.
WHO will help us? (Hint! This is the best question to ask first.)
When you’re looking for the best question to ask when starting a new project, begin with “Who will help us?”
The network you have established will determine your success. You will call upon other friends, associates, and coworkers to help you achieve your goals. If you’re the caterer looking for five new $20k clients, you’ll call around for event planners and decision makers for gala company dinners, product launches, and employee-wide events for Fortune 100 companies. You’ll call your corporate events contacts; you’ll call companies with upcoming anniversaries or founder events and connections who will know contacts at targeted companies. Ask “who may help us?” and watch your personal and professional success flourish.
When you don’t yet have a stuffed Rolodex, or your contact database only numbers in the dozens, think about ways to meet other people. The key to meeting others lies in making your personal connection helpful to them.
What skills or tools do you offer that benefit others? Perhaps you have connections in a particular industry, or you have some articles on your field of expertise that you’re willing to share, or you may do some volunteer work or consulting to a nonprofit or community group. Grow your circle of trusted contacts by finding ways to help others.
When you are meeting with others at an event or seminar, I recommend you organize your time and focus on meeting with a few new people for longer stretches of time instead of attempting to hand your card to everyone in the room. It is impossible to establish a meaningful connection with more than fifteen people at a two-hour event, so focus on table mates or people in your corner of the room. Consider following up directly or within a few days following the event, with a re-introduction and answers to any questions, referrals, or resource tips you’ve discussed. Some businesswomen add a picture of themselves to their outgoing mail signature to facilitate recognition.
It’s easy to develop conversation topics: crystallize a 20-second “elevator pitch” about what your company offers to succinctly and clearly explain your unique approach. When asking others about their business, include questions about their specific functions, their interests, trends in their field, or any ideas they have on the types of clients they seek: you’ll find mutually beneficial ways to help each other when you know each other and start the process of trusting each other.
Here’s an example of a 20-second pitch, for a new jewelry business. Switch out adjectives or rework as necessary:
“My name is Luisa, and my business (INSERT NAME OF BUSINESS) matches beautiful jewelry to beautiful women. The perfect piece of jewelry adds style/flair/pizazz/a finishing touch to any working woman's wardrobe, and my customized/ unique/gracious designs will make your business associates, wives, mothers, and daughters feel beautiful, confident, and polished. Going from work to play, these versatile pieces make every woman feel beautiful: choose a piece as a gift for a wedding, anniversary, birthday, or special event. Some samples are here [remember to wear samples!], and this month we're having a seasonal special of _____. I'm also looking for connections to wedding planners for beautiful bridal gifts for their customers.”
Finally, I do believe in the creed from my Brownie days: a stranger is a friend you just don’t know yet.
Keep a positive attitude at new events.
Your ability to understand other people translates very directly into your ability to be a resource to other people. When you’re in business, your ability to understand other people’s needs with great clarity directly translates into you being a resource person or a source of referrals to customers. Increase your skills in listening and understanding, and you will gain great advantages in your business life.