­čÄ×Virtual Networking Advice
Nkrumah Pierre, Networking Expert

Published on June 15, 2020

The following is an abridged version of the video interview.


What's the biggest surprise you've experienced since we’ve moved exclusively to virtual networking?

What I have been pretty surprised by is how available everyone is. So, before, if you wanted to hop on a call quickly or jump on a video call (which is also new), people would say, “Okay, cool. Let’s try for next week.” What I'm seeing now is that people's calendars are a lot more fluid. So, just as quickly as you can book a meeting, people also cancel meetings. And, that's happening a lot because: one, you have the kids at home (if you have a family); two, if you work for a corporation or a firm, your boss expects you to be available when he or she calls. So everything is fluid, but the good news is that if you do want to jump on a call, people are more receptive and open to taking that networking call, because they have more time on their hands.

A strong network is critical to long-term success. How do you prioritize who to stay in touch with?

There are two buckets: the takers and the givers. What I’ve found is that the more you surround yourself with connectors and givers (they’re kind of synonymous), the better. So, of course, the people who get priority are the ones who are givers. What I've found in the networking game is the people who really "get it" are connectors. Those are the people that are always asking, “What can I do for you?” They understand the power of networking; they understand the reason for networking. So, the people who ask how they can reciprocate are the people, in my eye, who should get the most attention.

What’s the most common virtual networking mistake you see people make that you wish they would stop doing?

LinkedIn has been huge for the past 10-12 years. In terms of what I can't stand is when someone connects with you on LinkedIn and goes off the deep end rather quickly. And when I say go off the deep end: if I connect with someone and they say, “Nkrumah I’d love to get to know you, figure out how we can help one another. I noticed we have a few mutual connections and I noticed you went to Lafayette.” Okay, cool – they did their due diligence; I’ll connect – that's fine. And then once I accept, they unload with what they want to sell me. They sell me everything under the sun, whether it be lead generation, outsourced accounting work, HR Solutions, whatever they’re selling – the flavor of the day. And, we have not jumped on a call; they don't know how to pronounce my name; they probably misspelled my name (if I didn't catch it).

They're already selling before they even know: one, who I am; two, what I do within the organization; and three, if I’m even a potential buyer for their service or product. They haven't done any of the homework, quite frankly, to see if I'm even a real buyer or potential buyer. Let's not forget in the networking game that you don’t always need to talk to the decision-maker; influencers are also good in the sales process. (Of course, you want to get to that decision maker, but if you have an influencer who is highly regarded by management internally and other leaders listen to that person, then that person could be just as, if not more, important than the decision maker.)

So, my biggest pet peeve are those who come in saying they want to authentically connect and then, in the next breath, they’re talking about the 30 things they want to sell and we haven't even had an initial conversation.

If you lack a diversified network (meaning your connections are in a specific industry, job function or just within your organization), what are some quick tips to broaden your network?

The first step is being honest with yourself. So, if you can just identify the fact that you don't have a large network in that industry, that’s the first step. Step two is asking for help, so if you want to be connected to folks within financial services, then see which one of your contacts are in financial services or sell to financial service professionals. That's the quickest way -- getting those warm introductions from some people who already have that network.

Response time impacts impressions you make. What is one of your personal best practices on how and when to respond when someone reaches out?

I've always had the 24-hour rule, and it's interesting because when I first started in sales, I thought 24 hours was too long; I would say within a business day. Now what I’ve found is that people are getting a little bit of a pass if they don't respond within 24 hours and here's why: just because of the sheer volume, the uptick in the amount of the emails we get.

It’s okay if you get back to someone within a day and a half (and a day and a half is probably worst-case scenario). One of my quick tips is if someone sends an email and I know I can’t get to it and give them a really good answer, I quickly send them a note and say, “Alyssa, thank you so much for making this introduction. Michael, it's great to meet you. I'm slammed/I’m buried right now, but I would love to chat at the end of the week.” A quick response to let them know you saw it -- people really respect that more than anything else. Versus, the email that gets buried further down and then what you missed yesterday could become four - five days old... and at that point, someone thinks you brushed them off. A day and a half is a good window, and if you are really jammed, let people know that.

Nkrumah Pierre Virtual Networking ExpertNkrumah Pierre is a Director with EisnerAmper’s Friends of the Firm program. He supports clients looking to hire accounting, finance and HR executives. He also provides job search support, job referrals and networking assistance to individual Friends of the Firm members. Watch the video interview here.

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