Many people seem to believe networking is only about visibility, i.e., the more people that know of you, the more successful you are. Visibility to a targeted audience may come through a dressed up LinkedIn profile, personal website, FaceBook page, resume or through conversation (blog, group post or in person), but it doesn’t automatically result in “relationship”. Nor does visibility necessarily lead to an accurate representation of a promise or the development of trust.
Effective referrals tend to be based on trust and the existence of a relationship that is deeper than a superficial social networking connection. A referral is typically most useful when the referring party can speak first hand to the skills or behavior of the referred party. The referring person needs to trust that the referred person can provide what has been promised. Additionally, there is a level of trust assumed by the 3rd party that the referring person will represent the referred person with accuracy. To develop trust of this nature, there must be evidence of consistent, repetitive behavior that is witnessed over time.
What sometimes gets overlooked by those asking for referrals is the need to model behavior that matches what has been promised. It’s been my experience that many times the words reflecting someone’s value proposition are nothing more than a hyped marketing pitch. The actual behavior exhibited by more than a few people is an extreme contrast to the promise.
Examples of the most notable conflicts I encounter are project managers that consistently miss deadlines or arrive late for meetings, accounting professionals that are delinquent with payments and writers that submit materials with grammatical errors and typos. Each time I observe behavior of this type (and I see this pretty frequently) I wonder what in the world they are thinking. Regardless of the verbal promise, the evidence developed through actual behavior is much more reliable. Ultimately, a person saying one thing and doing another develops a roadblock that may be impassable.
When your targeted audience observes behavior that is inconsistent with the brand that is represented through spoken words or with content in a profile or website, the seed of disbelief is planted. From that point forward, mistrust can develop quickly. In many cases, as the erosion of trust begins and mistrust grows, it may not even be articulated or acknowledged for some time. The result may be shown through passive, non action, as evidenced by reluctance to help or share information.
If you are in the market for a new or better job, or need more customers, make sure the promise offered in your branding materials is one that can be evidenced in your behavior each and every day.
The following examples are types of behaviors to be conscious of:
Project Management: Are you on time to meetings? Are you able to easily access information? Do you appear to be organized when asked for data? How well do you negotiate change? Coordinate groups?
Engineering: How well do you solve problems? Show evidence of persistence or due diligence? How well do you follow directions?
Technology: Are you able to find solutions to other’s issues quickly? Are your skills up to date? How well are you able to communicate technical concepts to nontechnical audiences?
Marketing: How clear and concise are your communications? Is your work error free? Are you able to creatively solve problems? Do you engage easily with others? Do you have a website or portfolio of written work ready when asked for samples?
Sales: Do you ask questions that will lead to further conversation when networking? Get commitments from people who promise information? Set times for following up? Deliver on promises? Find solutions for problems? Manage relationships? Are you reliable? Do you have a strong network?
Service/Support: Do you arrive to meetings or events on time? Do you look for ways to help others? Do you offer to help others or wait until asked? Are your communications on time, clear and complete?
Human Resources/Recruiting: Do you show an interest or concern for others? How well do you solve problems? Do you respond to communications from others in a timely way or with sensitivity? Do you listen for hidden meanings in conversations? Have strong relationships/networks to reply on?
If you are not “walking the talk”, it’s time to get conscious about what people see. If you have experienced a situation when the “promise didn’t match the brand”, please tell us about it and include the outcome.