Alas, I’ve long been searching for the “perfect” book about networking, but have come to suspect that such a thing is probably impossible — since such a book would have to address a massive number of different styles and situations in terms of the relationship-building process.  Make Your Contacts Count makes a determined effort at being the go-to guide for all things networking, however, offering nearly 250 pages of advice for people on how to build, strengthen, and leverage their relationships for maximum impact.

In terms of distinguishing characteristics, my first comment about this book is that it contains more checklists than an aircraft instruction manual!  Throughout the course of the book, you’ll come across the “Top 20 Turnoffs in Networking” list, the “Eight Ways to Leave a Conversation Gracefully” list, the “10 Ways to Get on Board Quickly at a New Job” list, plus dozens of other outlines.  Additionally, the authors have broken down many other networking facets into a series of useful mnemonic devices and acronyms, such as suggesting that people use the word REAL (Results; Expertise; Access; Leads) to characterize their agenda heading into any networking conversation.

Among my favorite parts of the book was one of the initial sections discussing the importance of building trust with those around you, including a list of recommended trust-building behaviors that include “be unfailingly reliable” and “When something goes wrong, ostentatiously make it right or compensate generously for your failure.”  These pointers, I felt, were right on the mark.  I also enjoyed a model that Ms. Baber and Ms. Waymon presented called the Trust Matrix that stresses the need to consistently demonstrate both your “character” and “competence” to those around you in order to establish the credibility needed for consistent ongoing referrals.  This approach is quite similar to the Focus/Professionalism/Likeability model I’ve used over the years to help many of my own clients increase their networking success, but to be completely honest, I like the approach in this book even better than my own!

One area of Make Your Contacts Count where I do disagree a bit with the authors’ advice, however, is the chapter where they instruct people how to answer the ubiquitous “What do you do?” question that arises in networking situations.  Ms. Baber and Ms. Waymon suggest that people deliver a two-sentence response they call the BEST/TEST method that first focuses on a statement addressing your BEST talents, followed by a short TESTimonial about a recent success you’ve experienced.  One example given in the book for a travel agent is: “I send people on vacation.  I just got a note from one of my clients thanking me for the most stress-free vacation he’s ever had.”  Now to me, this second part sounds a bit too much like bragging for me to be comfortable with it.  If I asked somebody what they did for a living, and within their very first breath they told me about a key accomplishment, outside of the context of the conversation, I’d feel they were trying too hard to impress me.  But I certainly get the authors’ point — and agree with them that people need to think hard about how to make themselves interesting and credible within a short period of time.

Ultimately, I think this book would be a great read for anybody who is fairly new to the professional networking process or who, like me, is simply fascinated by the subject of networking in general.  It’s not a perfect publication, by any means, but my hat’s off to the authors for packing so much information into a single written endeavor!