Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Three Keys for 21st Century Networking Courtesy of Tom Poser

I believe that in the rush to master the latest social media tools a lot has been lost.  Potential access to a worldwide market is one thing. The opportunity to build deep, long lasting personal relationships is an entirely separate matter. There’s an investment of time and energy required in the non-digital world. That’s not to say that online relationships are less valuable than those offline. It’s just that they’re fundamentally different and for many people less satisfying.

That’s the background to my introduction of Tom Poser, the subject of this blog post (and who's in the accompanying photo). He’s a commercial real estate broker with Jones Lang LaSalle in San Francisco. I’ve gotten to know him over the last four years, first when I was employed at Presidio Graduate School and more recently in my work as a career coach and employee development consultant. 

Tom’s the first commercial real estate broker I’ve known, and I admit he’s changed my impression of the profession. Many in his line of work rely on aggressive salesmanship to snare clients seeking new commercial space. It works for them, but up to a point. The cycle necessarily repeats itself as deals are closed and one’s portfolio empties. In the wake of such tactics there’s often a trail of fractured relationships as the focus on doing whatever it takes to land the business pays little attention to relationship building. 

Tom is different. You don’t get the hard sell. In fact, you don’t get a sell at all. Tom sees networking differently in a way that works for him. I think it’s the ideal approach in an increasingly noisy market for professional goods and services. 

Tom has based his networking on three key principles:

1. The relationship matters most. It’s not about individual, one-off transactions. It’s the opportunity to work with someone while forming a personal and professional connection. That’s why Tom spends time meeting with people in his network simply to catch up. He doesn’t pepper them with endless promotional emails or requests. When he needs something, he asks. I’m more than happy to help him (and vice versa).

2. Networking is a long-term process. Tom spent nearly 8 years building his business. He invested the time and energy knowing that his network would sustain him when he needed it the most. It has. In turn, you’re confident that he’ll be there to assist you even if it’s been some time since you’ve been in touch.

3. It’s all about asking, “How can I help you?” Tom organizes quarterly networking events for local architects, lawyers, financial professionals, and many others he’s gotten to know over the years. Again, there’s no hard sell. He benefits simply by having created this opportunity for others. Individuals in his network take the initiative to connect with each other for mutual benefit. 

Tom’s networking has a clear intent: “When you hear of someone looking for commercial space I hope you’ll think of me.” I know I certainly will.  I’ll also look to his example when my commitment to such principles wavers, as it inevitably will.  

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