WIIFM

When you're networking remember that everyone has WIIFM written on their forehead in invisible ink.  "What's In It For Me?"  This is true regardless of the person's age, gender, occupation or anything else.  There are some things that we all share in common and this is one of them.  There is no subject that is more interesting to each of us than ourselves.  So the best networkers remember this and use it to create win-win relationships.  Now, let's clarify upfront that we're not talking about manipulation or slickness.  Although, if you look up manipulation in the dictionary it means "to handle skillfully".  Most of us could use a little more skillful handling although the word "manipulation" is usually used in a negative connotation.
 
So, knowing that people like to talk about themselves, it's not a stretch to realize that the other person is looking for a way for this potential networking relationship to benefit them.  And so are you.  And that's the definition of a mutually beneficial win-win relationship.  This is the essence of successful networking.  As obvious as this may sound, there are bajillions of people that don't understand this.  And they have all the evidence to prove it.  Sometimes you even see a lot of dead bodies in their wake.  Well, maybe not dead bodies, but folks that are very unlikely to ever do business with or refer business to these people.
 
As you're getting to know your networking partners always keep in the forefront of your mind that you should be thinking of ways that you can add value to their professional life.  As they are describing what they do for a living be listening closely to what a good prospect or referral is for them.  Don't be thinking about what you're going to say next.  Focus on listening.  After they're done explaining their ideal referral, start running through your mental Rolodex looking for good fits.  If you need additional clarification ask them for it.  The more that you know about what their ideal referral looks like, the more likely you'll be in a position to refer business to them. 
 
One of the nice serendipities of remembering WIIFM is that WIIFM often results in WIIFY.  "What's In It For You."  Because if there's nothing in it for them, there's probably nothing in it for you either.  Maybe short-term, but definitely not long-term.  And that's how you can identify a professional networker.  They are only interested in mutually beneficial, win-win, long-term relationships.  Actually, individually beneficial, win-lose, short-term relationships aren't even called relationships; they're called transactions.  And transactions are like commodities.  Things that you're just looking for the lowest cost of.  There are no people who are commodities, only people who think like commodities.  Remember WIIFM and you'll see a difference in your networking and your business results.

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