I just read the book Robots Can’t Network (For Now) by Gianfranco Minutolo from which I got confirmation of my method of working as well as some interesting ideas. I’ll highlight a few themes now and refer you to the reading of the book for a more complete picture.

Over the past few years, I have been using LinkedIn and Sales Navigator (LinkedIn’s social selling tool) a lot for my business development activities abroad. They are platforms that allow you to identify not only the companies who could become potential clients but also the name and surname of the decisionmakers; as well as being able to contact them. LinkedIn pushes you to expand your network of connections more and more, giving the impression of being able to get in touch with an infinite number of people. In fact, many users send connection requests in bursts – without personalizing their invitation to connect – as if they were collecting baseball cards.

Minutolo’s book makes us reflect on the limits of this network of digital contacts. In fact, very rarely does this lead to a follow-up meeting (Minutolo talks about meeting for coffee together) or even just an introductory meeting via telephone or video-call. Our interpersonal relationships are facilitated by digitalization, but we must avoid being totally driven by technology. True networking can start like this but then it must follow through to a truer knowledge of the other.

Besides the “collectors of contacts” there are also those who use LinkedIn as if it were a door-to-door salesman. Of course, one of the purposes of networking is also to find new customers, but experience teaches me that it is more effective if you do not use a blatantly commercial approach right away. The book talks about a more social approach: I contact you because we have things in common, then maybe we will do business together. So an attitude of openness and of curiosity without necessarily expecting something in return.

And here the theme of the so-called soft skills, increasingly important today and which the author invites not to leave to chance but to enhance; much like we do for the technical aspects of our profession. The list of soft skills is long. I will mention a few to help you understand what we are talking about: autonomy, emotional intelligence, communication skills, teamwork, etc. According to Minutolo, the common thread that unites these soft skills is precisely the ability to create, manage and maintain interpersonal relationships over time.

We live in a world where innovation in the technical field quickly makes our skills obsolete. Investing time every day in networking well certainly opens the mind and new horizons. And a meeting – more than a click of the mouse – can change your professional life.

From the same publishing house you can find my book: Exporting in 7 Steps