Tomorrow marks the start of the Chinese New Year (CNY), and it is a good time for you — whether you are Chinese or not — to think about how you can go beyond your close circle of friends and family to build and maintain new ties.
Here’s how to serve up your own C-N-Y tidbits to improve your networking prowess:
Close the loop
The No. 1 obstacle to developing new relationships is the failure to follow up and close the loop.
After you meet a new person whose work and other skills might be relevant to your projects, immediately follow up with e-mail, a text message or phone call the day after, while you are still fresh in their minds.
Other than pushing things forward quickly, your speedy follow-up also indicates to them that you are on the ball and eager to collaborate — both great first impressions that you should leave with them.
If the other party has not replied, set a grace period of around two days before you give them a call. Most of the time, they may have been simply too busy, or are out of town.
However, for a minority of cases, it might be because they are not interested in your proposition to begin with. Let them know that they can still approach you should they change their mind, and then close the loop on that topic.
Nurture and nourish
As with plants, relationships have to be nourished and groomed regularly.
I always heed a maxim that applies to not just new contacts, but also friendship and kinship: If the relationship is not growing, it is dying.
Mr Derek Sivers, the founder of CD Baby, an online store for independent music albums, is a master at forging long-lasting relationships.
He keeps a rolling list of all his friends (real ones, not Facebook friends) and personally writes them notes at least once every few months to keep the friendships alive. Imagine how much work that can be if you are a well-connected person!
The moral of the story is, groom your relationships. Strike up conversations with old acquaintances, send them letters or write them birthday cards — these are all nutrients that keep relationships alive.
If there was only one piece of advice I could give on networking, it is this — always yield value for the other party. The core of networking is all about serving the other party’s needs.
As famous network marketer Jonathan Budd remarked, too many people are so focused about taking, taking, taking, when the right way to network is to give, give and give some more.
Many people feel that networking is self-serving because they have the misconception that it is about securing benefits from others for themselves.
However, the best networkers and most-connected people are those who are primarily concerned about creating value and serving the needs of the people they connect with, rather than calculating how they can capitalise on their relationships.
Think of your relationships as a piggy bank. When you contribute to the other party, you are making a deposit; when you ask for a favour, you are making a withdrawal.
Once you think of networking from this perspective, it becomes very clear how you should build relationships — put in a lot of deposits before you even think of making any withdrawals.
This tip also applies to networking with very important people. Too many of us are afraid of connecting with individuals of higher social status because we wrongly assume that we cannot offer them value.
Expert networker and best-selling author Michael Ellsberg offers an instructive example.
He heard that a multi-millionaire whose work he had always admired was coming to his city, so he decided to attend a conference so that he could meet him.
During the conversation, he discovered that the millionaire was a vegetarian and was having trouble finding good vegetarian restaurants in the city.
The next day, he immediately compiled a list of great vegetarian outlets and sent it off to the millionaire, who was, needless to say, immensely grateful.
From there, the relationship blossomed and he eventually became Michael Ellsberg’s business mentor.
To sum up the three tidbits, close the loop, nurture and nourish and yield value for all your relationships, and you will be on your way to becoming a networking ninja this Chinese New Year!