How to Make a Business Connection


RecommendationSpring is in the air. Houses go on the market, professionals are re-energized to get out there and network.

Both actions are signs of a desire for renewal, even as they are prompted (often) by necessity.

When you want to sell a house, it is well known that the thing to do to make it desirable is prep it so it has curb appeal.

Many business professionals transfer that same concept to their own presentation.

Out comes the resume for polishing — get your Google-fu on and you will find plenty of best practices, books, manuals, and examples.

In addition to learning which specific words and turns of phrase you may want to use to get picked (by a human, or a machine), you can also get advice on how to answer tricky interview questions.

Attire, check. Demeanor, check. Myers-Briggs stuff for the truly ambitious, check. Interactive portfolio for the skilled ones, check.

In fact, you could get a Ph.D. on how to appear like the perfect fit, someone another professional and a business would want on their team.

Never mind that this is all happening in theory, in a vacuum. You have not activated any of it through interaction.

The tool is becoming more popular. However, using LinkedIn to ask for connections with people who look good on digital is most definitely playing connection on LinkedIn and not the real deal.

You don't "manage" relationships off a checklist, you LIVE them. In business, the stories you tell are promises, which you then need to be able to keep. Or you won't be able to make better ones.

Appearances aside, the tools make it seem easy. Yet asking for something is not that easy. Where do you start? 

Start with learning to listen when others ask of you. What are they missing? Why are they not connecting with you?

Conversely, who is honoring both you and your time when they approach you with a request? What can you learn from them?

In case you'd like to teach by example. This post I wrote five years ago (2008) will give you plenty of ideas to kick off a rewarding networking season.

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How to write a business recommendation

LinkedIn is enjoying increased visibility and success as an online
business networking tool.

One of the most requested actions there and in business networking overall is that of the referral or recommendation.

Expert sales professionals have known it for a long time, and so do marketers: a third party testimonial is worth a thousand capability brochures.

Now that many of us are content creators, we are directly exposed to the conversation that is the marketplace.

Thanks to our use of social media tools, what others say of their experience of us is gaining importance in our personal press kit. Links and authority are both quite subtle and difficult to gauge vis-a-vis why we would hire an individual.  

The Old Ways in New Media

The resume as a recording of the accomplishments and results we have contributed in past jobs is not going to disappear any time soon.

That is because it's a universal format that helps everyone — including the majority of the population that is not online. Note the key words I used there:
accomplishments and results.

It's a good idea to focus the story
that is your cv on how all of the things you know and have done contributed to the growth of a business, made it better, had an impact on your customers — internal and external.

To do that, you need to focus your story on where and how the business makes money.

That has not changed with new media tools. If anything, with micro blogging tools such as Twitter, we are now learning to cut to the chase more quickly. Hone in on the quality and content of your focus vs.
brevity, and knowing at which stage of the pitch you are.

A resume acts as a calling card. Treat it that way.

 Pitches are micro-stories that contain enough information for the listener to decide whether they will give you permission to continue the conversation with them. Recommendations are a pitch's best friend.

They are an indication that a third party believes they should pay attention to you, they can benefit from meeting you in "x"
way(s). 

Stories About Others

That is why a recommendation as a short story about another should also be
focused.

It plays a dual role. It needs to provide information that is specific to introducing someone in a way that benefits the group or person to whom they are being introduced — and honor the skills/talent/ability to problem-solve of the
individual who is being introduced.

For an example of a targeted
verbal recommendation: a few years ago, I spoke about blogging on a panel at a
Chamber of Commerce event. In my talk, as I do on such occasions, I mentioned that I
am from Italy.

Among the audience was an entrepreneur who is also an
astute business networker. A few days later as he attended another event with the Italy America Chamber of Commerce he remembered that detail. He then followed up with me to gauge my interest in speaking at one of their events. Which I accepted.

When he introduced me at his event, he told this story about me:

She uses social media by sharing practical "how to" lessons, speaks Italian, and has many business connections in Italy.

This was enough to generate interest in further conversations around the Chamber's topical needs and the ways in which I could help them directly and through my network.

Which brings us to the "how to" part of this post. 

You'd Hire Him/Her Because

Say a friend or business colleague asks you to write a recommendation for
their services. You are comfortable doing that because you have worked
together
.

There are several options open to you:

  1. Tell a story of how "Steve" saved the day and
    helped your company earn new customers – this is a popular format in
    case studies and testimonials. The narrative begins with a delineation
    of the problem and continues with what the individual did specifically
    to solve it.

  2. Summarize the skills and attitude that most
    impressed you about "Sarah" with an eye to the audience who will be
    reading about her. Here it helps to ask yourself the imaginary
    questions: why would you hire Sara as community manager? What does she
    bring to the table that is unique? For example: she has "x" years of
    experience doing that; she did a magnificent job at company "z"; our
    community benefited from her work.

  3. Define the problem someone is seeking to solve in
    greater detail and support how the individual has true experience and a
    reputation for contributing results. As an example, I will use a
    recommendation I wrote recently on LinkedIn for Gianluca of Frozenfrogs:

In today's marketplace where the term 'conversation' can and does mean
a better match of customers' needs and wants with companies' products
and services, emerging technologies are helping humanize the point of
contact and harnessing the force of the collective.

Yet, they are mere
tools that need to be grounded in a solid business strategy to yield
results. Gianluca is fluent in both the language of business and that
of new media. He is a keen listener and a passionate implementer. Give
him a call and see for yourself
.”

For a recommendation to be useful to both the individual recommended and the potential buyer/employer, it needs to answer one main question first: why?

Why would you hire him/her instead of someone else? Why would you engage his/her services? For the candidate: why does it matter?

It's because… (tell them exactly why). Part of the answer depends on context.

What are some of the best (most useful to you) recommendations you have seen? Why?

 

[edited from archives]

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Valeria is an experienced listener. She is also frequent speaker at
conferences and companies on a variety of topics. To book her for a
speaking engagement click here.