By Jessica Titlebaum (Chicago)
While networking is a crucial skill for success, it’s become a stale concept. These days, every conference, seminar, or workshop is followed by a networking reception offering attendees a chance to meet and mingle with their peers. Don’t get me wrong, I am a strong believer in sipping a cocktail, rolling up your sleeves, and shaking a few hands. I never go anywhere without business cards. However, success doesn’t come in establishing relationships, it’s in the nurturing of them.
It’s after trust is established that successful people start coordinating solutions and that’s why I believe we need a new term that describes this productive aspect of relationship building. It’s not just about networking anymore, it’s about coordinating. Whether you are facilitating introductions, meeting a customer’s need, or marketing a new product, these actions require coordination, a connecting of dots.
What is Coordinating?
As a coordinator, one of the first things I do is get a good understanding of the person I am talking with at a networking function. Without a knowledge base to draw from, how can you connect them with the appropriate counterparty? I want to hear about how they got into their current position, what their challenges are, whom they admire, and how I can help them advance their career or business. For example, I met a woman last month at a conference looking for a job in regulation. I mentally looked through my contacts and briefed her about the people I knew at industry regulatory agencies. Having an understanding of what she wanted to do and what my contacts were looking for, I was able to facilitate the right introductions and find her a job in the regulatory space. My value was in coordinating the introductions.
Sales staff also use their coordination skills when closing a deal. They coordinate agreements by listening to their customer’s needs, identifying the most appropriate solution and then convincing the customer that they are the right person for the job. A few years back, I was the head of sales for a company that sold advertising space in daily newsletters. From my pool of industry contacts, I had to determine which ones would benefit most from my company’s product offering. I also had to collect information from the potential sponsors, determining their target audience, their budget, and what they wanted to highlight in the advertisement. Once I had this information, I had to connect it to one of the company’s advertising packages. It was the understanding and coordination of various points along the way that got the clients to sign on the dotted line.
Coordination skills also help marketing staff when advertising or launching a new product. Earlier this year I was working on a marketing campaign for a technology that would impact the global energy markets. I started thinking about whom I knew that could help me get the word out. I reached out to an exchange contact that could talk about the listed energy products and got in touch with a trader who actually traded the oil and natural gas contracts. After evaluating our options, we decided to organize a webinar that would focus on issues in the energy space and how my product could meet the market’s challenges. I coordinated the logistics of the webinar – the speakers, the software, and the invitations. In this instance, like most, networking provided me a pool of industry professionals to consult. But it was my coordination skills that got the webinar off the ground and the product marketed.
The Next Level
As I said before, networking events are great. But it’s not just about networking anymore. These days, it’s about nurturing relationships, building trust, and connecting the dots. You have to do something with the network you have created.
A good networker knows they can own a room just by walking into it. But the real secret isn’t in giving out business cards. It’s in identifying synergies and coordinating results. It is then that you take networking to the next level.