If your title isn’t CEO or purchasing manager, you’re not relevant to that networker. Yes, we all need to meet decision-makers who can hire us, who can bridge us with someone who might hire us, or who can refer us directly. There is no question that meeting decision-makers is valuable. But I’d like to offer two other categories of contacts to seek out and add to your intentional network.
The first is information sources. Information sources possess unique information about trends, deals, and industry insights. I can tell you from personal experience that information sources are incredibly valuable to your ability to secure new work and build credibility within a market. I have information sources in my network who have deep experience in renewable energy, commercial real estate, and financial modeling. When I have a question or I need insight into a company, or I’m putting a proposal together for a firm that’s involved in one of those sectors, I can pick up the phone call these people. They’re most likely not decision makers in their organization and they may never hire me or refer me to somebody directly, but the information they can offer me—the insight and analysis that they can help me with—has enabled me to secure new work.
The other group to make sure you include is the cheerleaders. When I’m networking and I meet someone who may not be a decision maker, may not have unique industry information but could potentially be a cheerleader, I identify them as a valuable contact. Cheerleaders are contacts who will provide references, referrals, testimonials—and quite honestly—they will cheer me up or cheer me on. They’ll be a spokesperson for my brand. When I introduce people and I say, “You two should meet”, the cheerleaders are the ones who say, “If Lida says we should meet, we should meet.” They’re my rock stars, my spokespeople, and my PR firm.
When you think about meeting people and you think about intentionally designing a network that will support your business, I encourage you to move past decision makers and look for those information sources and cheerleaders as well. Who has valuable, critical insight and information that can help you personally and professionally? Who are those cheerleaders you need to add to your intentional network because they really make you feel good, and they’ll support you and speak well about your brand?