Much has been said and written about networking. Most of that is made up of techniques, what to do under different circumstances. This document takes a slightly different tack and instead looks at the basics of networking, more ‘what’ to do rather than ‘how’ it needs to be done.
Getting the right ‘what’ will allow you to develop far more effective ‘how’s. Starting with the right ‘what’ means that you are heading in the right direction, anything else means that you are rowing your boat away from the finish line!
So what IS networking? The answer to that is it is probably different things to different people. Regardless of why you network, you must understand that networking is not a different kind of sales call. You do not attend a networking function to close a sale, instead you attend to open a relationship.
Networking is getting to know people, and letting them get to know you. It represents a way that you can demonstrate your business purpose and principles, how you treat your customers, your attitudes, your abilities and how productive you strive to be.
Be prepared to give your knowledge away for free when you network, and give it away with no expectation of a sale. You are establishing your credibility, not making a sales presentation.
You will get sales from the effort, just not necessarily from the person you are talking to. If you demonstrate your industry knowledge and your personal values then you will make an impression, and eventually you will reap the reward. It may be because the person you spoke to now wants to buy what you sell, or it could be that someone they know needs it.
This is the Law of Reciprocity acting on your behalf. You give value and then that value will return ten-fold. All you need to do is kick the process off by attending networking functions, and let yourself become well known.
It isn’t just turning up and finding someone to talk to though. You need to have specific goals when you network. Some people set networking goals in terms of the number of people they want to establish a connection with, and whilst that’s a great start, there is more to networking than that.
Let’s take a look at what makes a good network and then we’ll take a closer look at the goals you need to set.
A good network isn’t measured by its size alone. Some people have a very strong relationship with 30 or 40 people, and that’s all the network they need. Others have networks of hundreds, perhaps thousands and still don’t have what they need.
You need people who will bring you opportunities, people who will advice or mentor you to get the best out of those opportunities. You need people who will finance those opportunities that stack up. You need people who can manage existing opportunities, and people who will work on the opportunity, both of which allow you to look for the next one – and keep an overall watchful eye on the current crop.
You also need raving fans who will tell everyone about how good you are at what you do, and you need people who will support you with some kind words and appropriate sympathy when things don’t quite go as planned.
Finally, you need some people just like you who are on the same path – to share experiences with, to inspire each other and to provide you with the right ‘grounding’.
Imagine for a moment that you had every one of these positions covered except a Financier. You would struggle to launch any project that you couldn’t personally fund. If nobody brought you new opportunities you would only have those that you directly started. No project managers means you would have to look after them all.
Can you see that your ‘network’ has to be more than just a list of names?
Try this little exercise. Using your own titles for the different roles (Financier, Project Manager, Peer etc) make a list of at least three people in your network that perform that role. One person can have more than one role, although you should minimise multi-role people where possible.
Do you have all the bases covered? If not, what roles do you need to improve? What can you do to find the right people and add them to your network? What WILL you do?
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