Are you a connector, or just well-connected?


I am constantly meeting professionals who boast about their “network” or Rolodex, and promise that they can connect me to just about anyone. They say that if I look at their LinkedIn connections and see someone who could help me, they’ll “try” to make an introduction. The funny thing is that most of these so-called connectors have a list (huge ones, in some cases) of connections they barely know. It could be someone they met at a networking function for 30 seconds, or someone who found their profile interesting and wanted to “connect.”

Anyone who makes this kind of offer (especially if you make it easy for them to recommend you) is still adding more potential value than someone who makes no offer at all – but there’s an important caveat: you have to do the work. And there is a real possibility that you will invest a lot of time scanning their contacts only to find out that they barely know the person you want to meet.

The definition of “connect,” according to Merriam-Webster, is to become joined, which gets me thinking about how people become meaningfully joined – or connected – professionally. I don’t think it matters how many people you have in your Rolodex as much as how well you actually know each of them and how you can help them. It’s not how many people you know. It’s how much you know about them. When I connect two people, I do so because I genuinely believe there will be a mutual benefit. I do this proactively (500+ times over the past 18 months), and I try to frame the introduction in a way that suggests where the connection should go.

The difference between being a connector and being someone who offers to connect is analogous to being a matchmaker vs. Match.com. With Match.com, the burden is on you, and due to the lack of knowledge that Match.com has regarding whether someone is a good fit for you, this process (from what I am told) usually does not work. On the other hand, a matchmaker is selective about who they work with and takes the time to get to know you and learn more about what you’re looking for. If you make the offer to connect (like performing the function of Match.com), you’re at least in the right ballpark – as opposed to not offering at all, which is more like wandering into a singles bar when you want to meet someone who’s looking for a relationship.

In business, people who are true connectors, and not just blindly offering up their Rolodex, may not extend an open invitation. But when they make an introduction, all parties involved can see why it makes sense to connect with the other person. The connector knows what each person brings to the table, and exactly how they can benefit one another.

If you have the best of intentions when offering to make introductions, I would encourage you to take it just one step further and proactively look for ways to connect people. You can add a lot of value and be a hero in the minds of these individuals when you do this authentically.

What are your thoughts?

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11 Comments

  1. by Ingar Grev on March 29, 2012 at 1:36 pm

    Great post, Derek! Becoming a connector takes work and passion; a real desire to help others succeed. I’d add on to this that a great way to work with a connector is to keep him/her motivated to work with you – be the person that qualifies to be on that “selective” list.

  2. by Derek on March 29, 2012 at 3:29 pm

    Thanks Ingar. I couldn’t agree more. And you are one of the people whose list I am thrilled to be on! (I’m on it, right?) 🙂

  3. by TG on March 29, 2012 at 1:37 pm

    Good piece. Problem I see is that most people do not know how to development relationships. They talk, ask for a card and call a month later. For someone who attends 3-4 business events weekly, in a month I have no idea who you are and you never get beyond my assistant. My suggestion is make a meaningful initial connection and follow-up in a timely manner. Also, show me you know something about my business so you can evolve beyond being a salesperson and more of consultant that I want to call because you understand my business. I would rather have a small network of people I trust as opposed to a large network of people I barely know.

    Hope this makes sense.

  4. by Derek on March 29, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    Thanks for reading and for offering up this great advice I also think there is a huge responsibility to be a part of these small networks that you mention. The person has to be authentic and not have an agenda, or you will see them for who they really are.

  5. by Wanda on March 29, 2012 at 9:47 pm

    This is a great post. I’m really just getting into the social networking, and I truly understand your point. By reading it, I now have a different perspective on who I want to connect with. It is a personal space. I attended the last Cadre function on the 8th of March. It was a recommendation from my mentor, and I’m glad I took the time to participate. Keep up the good work educating us.

    Thanks,

    Wanda

  6. by Derek on March 31, 2012 at 11:14 am

    Thanks so much for the feedback, Wanda! For me, the first step is identifying how I can add value for my clients/network and then try to meet individuals who may be able to help them.

  7. by jeremy on March 30, 2012 at 3:39 pm

    I couldn’t agree more…and when you actually make the effort, the value comes back to you in a big way!

  8. by Derek on March 31, 2012 at 11:17 am

    Thanks Jeremy! Reading your blog (www.neverstopmarketing.com) on a daily basis certainly helps to reaffirm a lot of this!

  9. by Steve Dorfman on April 2, 2012 at 10:19 am

    So well said, Derek. We meet few people who are really good at this.

    I suppose taking on 1 good habit at a time can help people become better connectors.

    Technology certainly helps. I like to drag the 2 v-cards into a mail message, then tell each person (in a sentence or two) how I know the other person and what relevant skills/background they possess. I always end it with: “I invite you two to connect.” The whole thing probably takes about 2 minutes and I love hearing the success stories that follow.

  10. by Derek on April 4, 2012 at 1:08 pm

    Steve- Thanks for the great feedback! Awesome idea to include the v-cards. Anything to make it even easier for them to connect further enhances your value (IMO),

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