Are you making contacts or connections?

You need more than a scattergun approach to make networking successful.
Know the feeling when you make contact with someone and you both promise that you will keep in touch but never do?

Or someone you met briefly at a function, where you exchanged business cards, calls you up asking for one favour after another, never seeming to return the favour? Or others still who seem to make friends with you only to use you to get to someone else and drop you and soon as they do?

Well you are not alone. These are some of the pitfalls when it comes to networking and selling.

I wrote earlier this year about networking and referred to “farming” as an effective approach to building your network. Farming is slow and steady, which runs contrary to this fast-paced world we live in, but done correctly and with care, farming can yield far more benefit for you and the people you network with as opposed to casting the net wide and shallow.

Therefore, I thought it would be useful to look at the difference between what we call ‘contacts’ and ‘connections’ in networking, and see what defines each of them – and which one serves you better in building a solid and reliable network.

Contacts: By definition a contact is like having lots of little plants that don’t have deep roots. If you put pressure on the plant when it doesn’t have deep roots, it will topple over or pull away from the soil and die.

In networking terms:

  • A contact is someone you know but haven’t formed a strong relationship with.
  • You are likely to have more contacts than you will connections.
  • Making contacts allows you to spread the net far and wide.
  • You will want to consider all your contacts with a view to understanding which contacts you will convert into connections and how you will do this.
  • Having many contacts does increase your opportunities for referrals; however, the referrals won’t necessarily be qualified or come from a position of credibility. It will be up to you to build that credibility with your referral lead.

Connections: Having a connection is like having a large tree with a deep root system. When you put pressure on the big tree or lean on it, its root system is strong enough to support this process.

In networking terms:

  • A connection is someone whom you have known for some time.
  • You have a deeper relationship with a connection than you do with a contact.
  • A connection trusts you because you have taken the time to grow the relationship so that is solid which means you have established credibility with them.
  • A connection will be a powerful referral source for you based on their deeper relationship with you and their ability to refer from a point of credibility.

Having a combination of contacts and connections is important in networking. The key is understanding which contacts you will turn into connections and apply the farming approach with a view to yielding powerful results over a longer period of time.

Are your expectations realistic?

Testing the strength of your networking relationships is much like testing the strength of your various friendships. Some friends you can ask only so much of and others will help you with almost anything. I mean, would you consider asking a contact to help you move house over and above a life long friend?

Unrealistic expectations about what your network can provide to you come from trying to lean on or use your contacts before they have turned into connections. What results is contacts providing support out of obligation or choosing not to provide support to you as they feel that you do not deserve it. In reality, for your contacts to work for you, you need engagement at a deeper level and develop loyalty and respect them.

Here is a great piece of advice I was given a while back and it helped make sense of particularly difficult situation I was going through at the time. I feel it holds very true for this topic as well:

You have friends for a reason, a season or a lifetime.

With that in mind you may like to reflect on your own networking relationships. I suggest you list some people that sit in the “contacts” camp and those that sit in the “connections” camp. Reflect on what distinguishes these relationships from each other and seek to build more connections – it just might be worth it.



Sue Barrett is Managing Director of BARRETT Pty Ltd. Sue is an experienced consultant and trained coach and facilitator. Sue and her team are best known for their work in creating High Performing Sales Teams. Key to their success is working with the whole person and integrating emotional intelligence, skill, knowledge, behaviour, process and strategy via effective training and coaching programs. For more information please go to

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