Gary Vaynerchuk has often discussed “Why Taking Random Meetings Matters So Much.” Two years ago, I had no idea who Gary was. Luckily, I understood networking and that helped me completely change the trajectory of my career from good to great. Like many others, I have friends, family, and weird Facebook acquaintances unhappy with their current professional situation. I can’t always help them, but here are a few tips that have worked for me and I know with some patience will help you.
1) Take Random Meetings:
Two years ago Len Ciffone, a co-worker and friend of mine, reached out to me about his grammar school friend who had started his own social media agency. I was a manager in the marketing department at a large law firm with some ties to the firm’s (limited) social media presence. He sent me some background info and YouTube links which I bookmarked but never viewed. I set up the lunch for the Tuesday after Memorial Day. Funny thing happened that Memorial Day – my girlfriend of three years and I broke up. That Tuesday, I didn’t want to crawl in a hole and never come out, but I also didn’t want to get lunch and talk tweets. Regardless, I did it, because you just never know – and because I was hungry.
* Take meetings in general. Random meetings don’t have to be with strangers. I have great friends that I rarely talk business with. Include them as well; who better to try to help than your friends?
2) Be a human:
I met Chris Dessi for lunch in Stamford. He came in a few minutes after me and immediately complimented my watch. Twist the knife, I thought as I responded, “Thanks, my girlfriend, err, ex girlfriend got it for me. We broke up two days ago.” For the next 57 minutes, we talked about everything but business. Chris shared some of his life experiences, some advice, some positive thoughts, and a slight bit of jealousy at my new single life. There was no hard sell, really no sell at all. Chris was building a relationship.
* A friend of mine talks about writing a book called “Be Normal”. I told him I would buy a couple hundred copies just to give it to people. I am not saying not to sell, or not to talk business. Just make sure you read the room. You will know quickly whether there is a relationship to be built or just a contact to have.
3) Don’t just follow up – Give, Give, Give
I was pumped about my meeting. Chris has this crazy energy that I don’t need to explain because if you know him, you get it. I followed up with Chris but I didn’t just go through the motions. I wanted to help. No strings attached. I purchased three tickets to his next speaking engagement and brought the Director of Marketing and another manager. Then I helped facilitate an in-person meeting with our COO, CIO, Director of Marketing, and the Managing Partner of the firm. Chris was making some ground developing our firm’s business. I invited him to one of our client events in Pinehurst, NC. I thought it would be a good chance for him to network, that one day he may be a client and, more importantly, that he could reconnect with his friend Len who lived in Charlotte.
* When you take meetings, listen. Pay attention to what people really want and then be creative in helping them get there. The second you stop worrying about what you will get in return and really focus your attention on helping others, you will get more in return than you would have ever asked for.
4) You don’t know what you don’t know
I didn’t know Chris had aspirations to produce events, or particularly that he owned the URL http://www.westchesterdigitalsummit.comI didn’t know that he was paying attention to how I ran the event he attended in Pinehurst. I didn’t expect him to call me in mid-November to ask me to help produce the inaugural event. I didn’t know what I was thinking when I immediately agreed. On the day of the event, when Chris told me I would be his CMO one day, I didn’t realize he was serious.
* In an hour-long meeting, you will learn some things about who you are meeting with. It’s a small piece to a huge puzzle. Focus on your own consistency. Hold yourself to a high standard, provide value, and at the right time, the right opportunity may present itself. I like to follow the saying, “how you do anything is how you do everything.”
Two years later, almost to the day, we have produced two digital summits and have plans to expand this year. I am the CMO of Silverback Social, and everyday I am excited to meet new and incredible people because, frankly, that’s how I got here. My story is unique, but it’s the law of numbers. Start simple – one or two people a week and see what happens. Everyone is busy, so it’s your responsibility to make time whether its breakfast, lunch, drinks, or dinner. It might take two months, two years, or two decades, but it’s always worth it.