I’m going to let you in on a little secret behind all of my networking efforts.
But before I do, let me ask you a question. What do you think is the #1 problem people say they have with networking?
Too little time? Not enough return for their efforts? Maybe it’s that they don’t know where to start?
It’s actually none of these. The #1 problem people tell me they have with networking is not knowing if the people they network with are the right kinds of people they should be networking with.
In other words, people struggle with not knowing if they are wasting their time or not.
I don’t blame them for wondering. Most people do waste a lot of time networking with the wrong people, or not knowing how to network effectively in the first place.
However, if you implement this little trick, you can turn it all around.
What is the Conversations List Strategy?
The Conversations List Strategy is a method for proactively identifying and tracking the people who you should be networking with to grow your business and/or career.
That may sound intimidating, but it really isn’t that hard.
If you implement this strategy, I guarantee you that you can turn your networking efforts from haphazard and disorganized into focused and purposeful, with a clear direction and strategy.
I’ll explain how this works in a moment. But first, let me explain why it’s important.
Why You Should Create your Conversation List
The purpose of creating your own Conversation List is twofold. First, creating a list of the people who you want to focus your networking efforts on forces you to think through where your career or business is currently headed, and where you want to go.
Those two things may not be the same.
The second purpose behind creating target lists is to create a roadmap for where you want your business or career to go. Truly effective networking cannot be accomplished in a day or an afternoon, but only through sustained effort over time.
The problem with any long-term strategy is the risk of drift. You lose sight of your goal and start networking with people who do not serve your long-term goals. Creating a networking list reminds you to remain committed to your goals.
This is a crucial first step, and one which I have seen very few networking experts suggest. I highly, highly recommend you take the time to complete this step before proceeding any further.
How to Create Your Conversations List
As a first step, you want to sit down and brainstorm a list of 50 or more people who you want a deeper relationship with. I suggest you place this list on a simple spreadsheet (see the screenshot example below), but you can also just use a piece of paper. I use Google Drive.
I refer to this list as a Conversations List because that’s really what you’re doing – you are identifying the people who you want to develop a conversation with over time.
The people on your Conversations List are people who you want to meet (if you haven’t met them yet), and who you want to get to know you. They’re people who you may know and respect in your industry. In an ideal world, you’ll want some of these people to become your peers.
You should start with a list of at least 50 people on your conversation list. But over time, you will add people and drop people from the list as you meet people naturally, online, or at various in-person events.
Let’s take a look at what your “conversation list” spreadsheet can look like:
As you can see, I suggest you keep the conversations list spreadsheet very simple. The goal here is to make this document so simple that you will use it frequently.
The more columns you add with more information, the less likely you are to use this document. That’s why you want to make it simple and easy to use.
Here’s what you should include in each of the columns:
First Name & Last Name. Of course, include the person’s first and last names. Do not include organizations in this list as they will go in the Organization Target List which we’ll discuss later.
Website/Blog. Include the person’s website or blog.
Reach. In this column, write down a simple score on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being the highest) for the amount of influence or impact this person could have on your career or your business. In other words, if you had a close personal relationship with this person, how much could they help you?
If this is a person with a strong network and they are in your industry, then give them a high score. If this person is a reporter for your local newspaper, or a blogger with a blog that is widely read in your industry, then that person will have a high reach.
Personal Details. In this column, write a few personal details about this person – in particular, anything you two have in common. Like you may both be big Yankees fans, or you may both have three daughters or you may both like rock climbing.
You can customize these columns as well. For example, you may want to add more personal details or you may want to add a column for your “connectors” – the mutual friend or contact (if you have one) that will connect you to the people who you want to get to know.
What to Do With Your Conversations List
You may be surprised at the people who you include on this list. It may even help you make a big life decision, like changing careers.
Your Conversations List should be a living, breathing document. It should not be stuck in a drawer somewhere. If you face a fork in the road and are having a tough time making a decision about an opportunity, look back at your Conversations List and ask if the opportunity will help you in the direction you are going.
You should also revise it from time to time and delete names as well as add names as you focus and evolve.
Now, Get Started
OK, that’s it. Whip out a spreadsheet or a piece of paper and get started. Set an egg timer if you need to and spend no more than 15 minutes on putting it together. If you need extra help on putting this together, you can check out my Power Networking System.
In a later post, I’m going to give you an exercise for brainstorming the types of people who should go on your Conversations List, in case you are still stumped.
What do you think of this idea? Is it good? Is it a waste of time? Let me know in the comments.
Photo credit: Flickr.