Without a network you’re like person on a flying trapeze with no safety net. You never know when you’re going to need it, but when you do it’ll save you! Build your network BEFORE you need something and keep it strong.
1. Getting started
If you’re at an event where you know no-one use your host/hostess to introduce you to a couple of people. After this take the initiative and introduce yourself.
2. Give first ask later
Many people are uncomfortable about networking as they feel it makes them look like users. The secret to successful networking is to GIVE before your receive – so after starting out with networking be prepared to give for a few months without expectations of receiving.
Networking is not only about attending business events and collecting a bunch of business cards. Try to engage with people you meet. Ask the contacts you have made about the challenges they are facing. If you can empathize and suggest some pointers without seeming a know-it- all or put them in touch with a specialist who can help, then your relationship is off to a start.
3. Quality over quantity
Successful networking is about the quality of your connections rather than the quantity. If you go to an event and meet with only a couple of people you really connect with it’s better than ten “Hi-nice- to-meet- you-bye” encounters. If you tend to be more introverted don’t worry – you are probably a good listener and people LOVE good listeners. Don’t dive straight into business discussions, work on conversation starters and ice breakers to understand more about the person and who they are.
4. Credibility Counts
- Once you have made contacts keep your credibility levels high.
- If you accept an invitation ATTEND the event.
- If you offer a service, follow up and DELIVER the service.
- If you say you are going to help then DO it.
- If something is told to you in confidence DON’T repeat it.
5. Sharing information
A great way to build up your network is to share pertinent information. This does not mean dumping an article into a bulk email – it means choosing something particularly appropriate to a contact and sharing with a personal message. You could share an article with breaking industry news, a photo illustrating a new concept or design, or new research on something relevant to the contact’s field.
LinkedIn or Twitter are useful for sharing articles and information you have read that you feel will be of value to others. If however you are an expert in a particular field and write your own articles drawing on your research and experiences and share these then it ups your credibility even more.
6. Nurturing contacts
Keep in touch online and offline to encourage a connection and make sure you share beneficial information. Make the conversation about them, be helpful where you can and find ways to connect your contacts to them.
7. Keep your keystones in place
The keystone keeps the arch together – these are the people who may have introduced you to a number of contacts and will probably introduce you to many more. Don’t forget their generosity in starting you on the networking route and make sure you can be of benefit to them.
8. Diversify your networks
Instead of networking solely with people in your industry/field in your city, try to spread the net wider by including people from other countries, people from various socio-economic backgrounds and ethnicities, people working in NGO’s, students doing PhD research and professors. These people will often be at the forefront of new research and looking at solutions from different perspectives, which can give you a greater depth of perception in your field and alert you to new developments.
9. High performers are good networkers
Does networking make some people more productive or are they good networkers because they are high performers? This is like the chicken and egg question, however the fact remains that people who are highly productive are also good at networking. You don’t have to have all the knowledge – as long as you can rely on expert connections, you can benefit from their strengths. Remember you’re not a sponge soaking up everyone’s knowledge – you need to share - making your network all about the depth of the connection.
10. Leaders need leaders
When you’re a leader it means you need to rely on your network even more for support, insight, feedback and information. Don’t try to go it alone. Often when a person rises through the ranks to a position of CEO they find difficulty in stepping back from their previous managerial role to developing an overall view and vision of where the company is going. Overseeing corporate responsibilities and the management of the whole company in relation to all stakeholders can be daunting and for this you need the support of other CEO’s.
11 Identifying different types of networking
Three different types of networking have been identified – operational, strategic and personal.
When you get to know people on a social level it makes you more approachable – shared experiences, interests and sports move you from the perception of an austere expert to a more regular person that people are comfortable with. You never know when you may need to rely on the person for introductions and support – it may be in five years time when you get retrenched or your business goes bust but in the meantime you enjoy social occasions, support each other in small ways and share ideas for solutions to day to day problems. These are the people you can share misgivings and doubts with and they will help provide some light during transition through the darker tunnels of life.
This is the network that helps you run your operation efficiently. Develop good relations with the people who work with you to ensure production and sales run efficiently. If their kids or a spouse needs an introduction for a job and you know someone hiring, make the offer.
Make sure you have a good relationship with the outside people who help keep everything running smoothly from suppliers to machine to air-con repair. Provide them with referrals when you can and even though it may not be your job to contact them on a regular basis for orders make sure you know who they are and call them up for a chat or email when a job has been well done. You never know when you’ll need them in an emergency and they should be comfortable to contact you if they need some advice.
You need to expand your network in order to create new business. Networking needs to be both internal and external – you need to know what each member of your board of directors has in mind (often individual members have different agendas), what the feeling is among staff and how outsiders view your business. You need to get people on board for future decisions, expansions and moves. Like a game of chess you need to be thinking far ahead.
If you want to know more about BUILDING YOUR NETWORK then check out www.thevisionlabs.com workshops and events.