If cultivating contacts sounds like a foreign concept to you, think of it this way. Imagine that you have a garden in your back yard. (This is much easier to do if you actually have a garden). Now, imagine planting the seeds and just walking away never doing anything with the garden except throwing some new seeds in there from time to time. No water, no fertilizer, no weeding, nothing but adding more seeds.
That doesn’t sound very effective, does it? However, this is how most people treat their network. The old way of networking taught us that all you have to do is meet people and add them to your contact list. You may call them once to see if they want to buy your product or service, but if not, that is the last time they ever hear from you. That’s just like continuously planting seeds in a garden and waiting for your produce to miraculously appear. Sure, you’ll get an ear of corn or a few bell peppers, because nature. However, with a little cultivation, you could count on a bountiful harvest throughout the year.
The new way to think about networking is this way, instead of just adding random contacts to your list, be intentional about the people you even add. If you don’t like brussels sprouts why are you adding them to your garden? Start treating your network like a valuable community where everyone doesn’t belong. When you do this, you reduce the number of relationships that you need to cultivate so you can focus on the ones with the greatest chance of bearing fruit.
Also understand that cultivating is a regular activity, not something that you can just do once and leave alone. Cultivating contacts should be a daily activity. Identify the 100 or so contacts that could really make a difference to your business and set a goal to become good friends with them all. This may seem intimidating at first, but with a plan, it’s not difficult at all.
Once you’ve identified your 100 contacts, schedule a monthly call with each of them. That’s only 3–5 per day. The good news is that you don’t necessarily have to place a call to them, a text or e-mail will suffice. What is important that you connect with them regularly and ask how they are doing or offer them some information. How many people do you have in your life that do that for you? If you’re like most of us, not very many. That’s why this simple act of keeping in touch (without wanting anything) is so powerful.
There is actually a psychological principle called The Mere Exposure Effect that talks about why we are predisposed to like people who are familiar to us. By keeping a schedule that you use to make sure you keep in touch with your 100 contacts regularly you can tap into this law and keep your network bearing fruit for years to come.