Ever wonder what separates average networkers from those who become trusted must-have connections – your “Twenty-Percenters”, as I refer to them in my presentations? Here are 5 key steps.  (Warning: they are surprisingly simple, but they are not easy.  It takes hard work and diligence to do them well and consistently.)

  1. Pay attention to –  and do  – the little things.  Return phone calls. Show up on time. Be polite and gracious. Have and demonstrate integrity.  Walk your talk.  Do the right thing even when it’s difficult. Don’t spew out unwanted sales pitches. Don’t spam or overload others with information prematurely.  Ask permission before you add people to your e-lists. Listen.
  2. Do Step 1 consistently and over time. Not just when it’s convenient.
  3. Provide that extra level of attention, class, generosity, and follow up.   Let people know how much you appreciate them. Call them by name. Comment on their blogs and articles. Retweet their tweets. Like their Facebook pages. Review their books or products. Quote them (and give them credit.)Stay in touch. Show gratitude. Offer value. Do what makes them smile, laugh, and feel special and important.  Keep your promises. Make their day. Make them look good.
  4. Become known as a provider of reliable information, insights, connections and resources.  Think before you connect or refer. Be discerning and thoughtful. Stay up to date on what’s happening in your industry and the world.  Be a lifelong learner. Offer thoughtful ideas and advice. Double check your facts and sources. Surround yourself with great people and share these connections wisely and respectfully. Demand and exhibit excellence.
  5. Repeat Steps 1 through 4 regularly.

Again, it’s not as easy at it looks. But if it was easy everyone would do it, then, wouldn’t they?

What would you add to this list?  How do you earn or seek networking loyalty? What makes some connections more valuable to you than others? What makes someone a Must-Have Connection? Or not?
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