Last week, I along with Frank DeRaffele, had the great privilege to be invited to Washington D.C. to meet with New Hampshire State Senator Kelly Ayotte, about Small Business Stimulus Week, our new initiative we ran this past December. You can read more about what the initiative is about in this blog post Is it Time to Stimulate Your Own Economy. We are excited to be running it again this upcoming July.
While this was a quick trip, it was also a meaningful one that I believe will pay huge dividends over the next few years. There are a couple of lessons about networking though that were present during this trip that I would like to share over the next couple of blog posts. You can read the first lesson in this post Lessons Learned From My Visit to Washington #1.
Today, I would like to focus the Importance of Networking With Everyone.
You see, while everyone has been asking me about meeting Senator Ayotte and how great it is that I got to meet with a Senator about Small Business Stimulus Week, I think she may have been the least important contact I made that day. For now anyways.
I believe that it was the half hour that I spent talking with her aides, and the 20 minutes I spent talking with some of her office staff, that were the most important contacts I made on my trip. These people are the ones that will really make things happen in the future, and they are the ones that are often over looked. Networking with the “Little People” is something that could page huge dividends in the future.
The key is that Senator Ayotte’s office staff are the gatekeepers to any future meetings or work that could come from this initial meeting. They are the ones who screen everything for the Senator, even her scheduling. If I ever want to schedule another meeting with the Senator I am going to have a much better chance if her scheduler recognizes my name. Far too often these vital people are overlooked as people focus on their desired end result, which in this case was shaking hands and meeting with the Senator. Now that that has happened many people would focus on following up with the Senator, and they never think of fostering a relationship with the people who made the meeting happen in the first place, and are the ones who screen all information to present to the Senator.
Don’t get me wrong, meeting with the Senator was a huge deal for me. I think it is the very beginning of a long process, but I know that without fostering the right relationships with the right people that process could already be over. I would be out of mind to believe that Senator Ayotte has any recollection of our meeting right now. But, I do know that the conversations and laughs shared with her staff, with the proper follow up with each of them, they will remember and may even be more open to reading future emails, and making future meetings happen.
I left this meeting with a list of future people to contact about Small Business Stimulus Week. People I can contact through the connections made at this first meeting. Do you think I received this list of people from the Senator? Absolutely not. In fact some of the most connected people in Washington are the staff members working for the politicians, and those are the people I want to network myself with.
So, now it is up to me to build on those relationships. I don’t expect anything from these people at this point because again I have barely established any visibility with them, but I do know it is a starting point and it is completely on me where that relationship goes.
I see business professionals make this mistake over and over in business networking. They have a meeting with someone, and then never put any effort in to fostering that relationship. People constantly are focused on the next meeting, and they make the mistake of not investing time and energy in the follow up.
This is why I wrote the past blog about the first lesson from my trip which is knowing this process will take time. I also know that how much time will be dictated by my efforts. That is why I have already sent 5 personal thank you letters from my trip. I sent a personalized letter to everyone I met that day at the Senator’s office. I sent one to the receptionist, the scheduler, the Senator’s two aides, and then finally the Senator herself. In fact the shortest of those letters, with the least bit of info was to the Senator.
I believe that most people would send a follow up thank you letter to a meeting like this, however I think they would send A follow up letter. One. That letter would most likely be sent directly to the Senator thanking her for the meeting, and hoping for some sort of response. When that response (which I don’t have intention of receiving either) doesn’t arrive they move on to the next meeting. I want to be remembered, I want to try my best to standout from the thousands of meetings the Senator has in her office, and one way to do that is to focus on, thank, and be remembered by the people most often forgotten in the process.
So, one of the biggest lessons in networking is to network with everyone. It is often the “Little People”, the “Gatekeepers” that hold the most powerful connections. It is these people who make things happen and they are the ones guarding the gate to the success we all desire.