Having thousands of LinkedIn connections does not mean you are well-networked. Stacks of business cards from networking events does mean you are well-networked. How many of these “connections” would drop everything to have a cup of coffee with you if you emailed them? How many would even answer the email? The acid test is simple: How many people trust you?
According to Covey in The Speed of Trust, we judge ourselves by intent, but other people judge us by our behavior. Meeting someone, having a good chat, exchanging business cards and linking with them via social media is not enough. After you meet someone, you must demonstrate you are sincere and genuine through your actions. Trust is built over time by being valuable, consistent and selfless. Here are three ways to build an effective “nurture plan” that builds trust:
Valuable Follow Up
Everyone loves to get content that is valuable, interesting and insightful. Following up quickly after meeting a new contact builds your reputation with them. Carefully choose something of interest to send the contact. The possibilities are endless:
Articles, case studies, podcasts, a brilliant blog, whitepapers, cool iPhone apps, a new book or magazine article relevant to their industry, e-newsletters, review a great local sushi restaurant, research findings, news about their hometown, a fan site for their sports teams, polls/survey results for topics critical to them, invitation to networking events, an upcoming local alumni mixer from their alma mater, etc., etc., etc.
Put yourself in the other person’s shoes and use your imagination–it won’t take long to find something that will blown them away.
Consistent Follow Up
For most new introductions, following up once per month is fine. When you reach out once a month you are not being too pushy. You are showing consistency–you wanted to be valuable to them when you first met, and you are willing to do it in a comfortable, relaxed way.
Schedule a monthly repeating task in your calendar and make a firm commitment to keep it. Warning: each month, use a different modality (phone, email, snailmail, social media message, etc.). If you just use one method of communication, you’ll become “that guy who emails me once a month”. Here’s an example:
- Day 1: First meeting with the other person
- Day 2: Thank you note with a specific reference to something the other person said
- Month 1: Email a podcast that would be of high interest to the other person.
- Month 2: Snail Mail a printed whitepaper/article with a single, yellow Post-It note on the front page.
- Month 3: Phone call with an invitation to meet at an upcoming networking event, and an introduction to someone who is also attending you believe they would be interested in meeting.
- Month 4: Send a LinkedIn invitation, with a personal note asking if they feel comfortable connecting.
- Month 5: Email recent article of interest on Internet
- Month 6: Phone to ask the other person if there is anyone in their network, neighborhood, company or house of worship who might be looking for a job. Tell the other person you would be happy help anyone in their network.
Selfless Follow Up
People always ask me what they can say to build trust; I tell them words won’t build trust.
The best way to prove you are trustworthy is to be a trustworthy person. By your actions, prove that your intent is genuine and sincere. Act with no expectation of receiving anything in return. Ethical networking means never keeping score. You are not following up with them because you want a favor from them. You are following up because you want a relationship. And you are willing to put in the hard work and risk rejection if that’s what it takes to earn and deserve their trust.