Articles - 14th August 2020

What is a super-connector, and why should you care?

Words by Tal Imagor
Illustration by Will Francis

As a freelancer, you will have already noticed that the bulk of your (unpaid) work revolves around getting more work. If you want to sustain a successful career while being self-employed, ensuring a steady stream of clients is vital. There are many methods to achieve that, but one of the best ones is to get clients to come to you, instead of you constantly chasing them.

“In the freelance and micro-business section, networking is the best form of marketing,” says Jon Baker, a Business Coach and Author of ‘Ninja Networking.’ This is probably not news to you, but it’s all about networking with the right people. “A good connection in your network is somebody who knows or works with people who want your skills,” Baker continues. This person is often referred to as a ‘super-connector.’ For example, “if you want to network with bookkeepers and you realise that all the local bookkeepers know one accountant well, that accountant could be your super-connector,” Baker concludes.

Knowing one or several super-connectors is a sure way of getting referrals for new clients. And referrals have much higher chances of turning into new business. When people hear about you from an esteemed source, they already put you at the top of their list; they have had success from that person before and trust their judgment. When people approach you through your website or social media, on the other hand, you still have a lot of convincing to do. So, how do you get to know those super-powered networkers, and get on their call-sheet?

 

How to spot a super-connector

There is a significant difference between the thought process of a super-connector and the rest of us. While a “regular” person may approach networking as a means to an end, a super-connector will look at it as an opportunity to help others. They meet every new person with the real desire to get to know them. They are also experts at recognising when two people will be a good match — personality-wise and especially business-wise — and introducing them to facilitate collaborations.

“Over the last 10 years, I’ve attended conferences and events where I’ve met key people in helping me to grow my business,” says Shona Davies, who works client-side in Healthcare. “In particular, I’ve met 2-3 people who you call super-connectors – who are able to connect the dots between skills and need. Those individuals constantly check in with their established network and look to grow it, and to be selective about who they include.”

 

What profession lends to super-networking strength?

This breed of people can come in many forms. The most obvious profession for super-connectors will be one that forces them to conduct business with numerous people on a daily basis, such as decision makers, industry leaders, and top recruiters. “The people who have been great for me are a careers coach, a business mentor, and a customer experience expert,” says Louise R. Turner, Managing Director at Wordsmiths Unlimited. Other people, who may not be the first to come to mind, could be your hairdresser, local pub owner, or even a teacher. All of those will have great ties in your community and may know people who are looking for your skills.

As Baker mentioned, a good way to spot the super-connector in your field of expertise is to look at the one everyone else already knows. At networking events, try asking people you talk to if there’s anyone else you should approach. If enough people point to the same person — this is your super-connector. At parties, you may hear the sentence, “have you met (insert name) yet?” The person people keep referring to is most likely a super-connector.

 

How to get that coveted referral

If you want to start getting referrals from a super-connector, it’s not enough to simply know one. After you have met (or chatted online), you need to build a relationship that will make them want to recommend you.

Dawn Baird is a partner at Sensei Communication Consultancy. As a self-declared super-connector, she explains that she prefers people to approach her during a natural conversation already happening on social channels, or with a phone call. “Emails get deleted, unless there’s been an introduction via some other method first,” she clarifies. “And if I was recommending them, I’d have to have some knowledge of their work first. I get people asking me to recommend them on LinkedIn, with no prior relationship. That is a complete turn-off.”

Turner agrees and adds that “it comes down to building good relationships and proving you are ace at what you do. I have a few people I regularly, maybe quarterly, keep in touch with. I try to help them as much as expecting help. I am generous with my contacts book and hope that others will do the same.”

Once you’ve identified a super-connector, the first step is introducing yourself. Ideally this would be in person, but if you do decide to email, try to have it come through a common connection.

The next step is to make sure you keep in touch with them. Don’t expect anything to always happen right away. In fact, you should be offering them as much as possible to help them get to know you and your business. Then, try asking them if they know other people you can talk to, so you can expand your network.

“Ideas may not turn into work for weeks or months, sometimes years,” says Davies. But this shouldn’t deter you from keeping regular contact with your network. “Being top of mind through recency of contact is a good place to be. Sometimes, it won’t turn into work but perhaps another connection that will go somewhere fruitful. Just get out there (both physically and figuratively), meet people and be genuine. Don’t pitch unless you know they have a need that you can fill and just chat. People want to help each other and will help you too.”

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