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“You can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” – Zig Ziglar

July 10, 2012

“You can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” – Zig Ziglar

Networking 2.0: It’s all about them

Color Magazine – Business

Most networking experts tell us to be focused, determined and to have a killer hand shake and elevator speech, but that’s not all we need to be effective networkers.

Although those are some  ingredients, the secret sauce of networking is the WIIFM factor. That is, what’s in it for me. The WIIFM principle advocates for a strategic, deliberate and reciprocal way of engaging someone and cultivating a relationship.
Let’s be clear. The ‘what’s in it for me’ part refers to knowing and attending to the needs and wants of the people you are looking to meet not yours. This is an often mistaken concept that begs further explanation. Take a look at Irene.* She is your typical go-getter professional: savvy and assertive. She had heard about the WIIFM factor and jumped at the chance to put it into action. During one of our coaching sessions, she expressed frustration. “I am doing everything the WIIFM is about and I am not getting anywhere!” she whined. “I know exactly what I want,” she continued, “But when I go ask for it while networking, people don’t seem to care.”
It didn’t take long for Irene to realize that networking using WIIFM implies learning about the person we want to connect with ahead of time and understanding the person’s interests and potential areas of engagement. Taking this proactive approach facilitates initial interactions with the networking target.
Critics of the WIIFM approach claim it is calculated and opportunistic as many respond positively and engage only with those whom they perceive will render them a future benefit through a business contact, a future sales opportunity or a perceived status boost through some kind of association. Those in favor of the WIIFM principle say people who use it to make decisions are focused on their goals and are much more effective and efficient in their relationship building skills.
Next time you are getting ready to do some serious networking, remember the ABCs of the WIIFM factor:
Ask. Take time to find out what is important to the other party through online and offline sources. Google and LinkedIn are the most common online search tools used. This knowledge will help you understand their interests and determine potential goals and concerns you may have in common.
Be authentic. Show genuine interest and willingness to connect with them. If you are faking it just to be in their good graces, it will not yield you long term results. Hit and run relationships are not productive and erode your professional reputation.
Connect. If you are looking to reach out to someone for a job lead or informational interview, you may think that you do not have anything to offer in return. Think again. A gesture as simple as sharing a copy of an article or mentioning a recent event related to the person’s area of interest will show that you know what makes this person tick.

Networking seems to be the answer to every professional conundrum: Looking for work, generating leads, getting referrals, and securing personal introductions. By using the WIIFM approach, we create an opportunity to develop a reciprocal relationship where both parties can benefit. So that WIIFM in essence becomes WIBTB: What is beneficial to both.

*Names have been changed.

Anna Giraldo-Kerr coaches, consults and writes about leadership and diversity. For more of her writing click here. She can be reached

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