Network - notice the word - "work"
If you met one new person every day, stayed in touch with them and you introduced them to other people over time, then you would probably become the best networker in Australia. Two simple ways to change your life – 1. the books you read and 2. the people you meet. Great networkers are always focused on meeting new people.
This Christmas, as you entertain your loyal clients and wonder whether you will be working with them again next year, consider this- “Are you putting the work into building your network”? Notice the word “work” in network? It’s not called “net easy”, or “net no worries”, it’s called “networking”.
Marketing professionals know we like to do business with people we know and trust. For many of you it’s not easy getting out of your comfort zone and meeting new people. One lesson I have learnt in life is that your network will be closely linked to your networth.
What do great networkers do?
The best networkers I have met display most of the following traits:
- They are interested in people and finding out what makes them tick
- They don’t like talking about themselves, but can do, confidently, if need be
- They are excellent at remembering names and little details about people
- They make an effort to stay in touch with new contacts
- They make an effort to link others and provide referrals
- They ask interesting questions, probe and actively listen
- They turn up, a lot (they apply the Woody Allen rule – 80% of life is just turning up)
- They read widely and get involved with different associations and groups
- They speak at events
- They embrace social networking tools
If you want to assess your own networking skills mark yourself between 0 and 10 for each of the above.
10: You do it all the time
5: You’ve thought about doing this, occasionally
0: You never do it
Guidelines for events
"Good to attend, better to host, best to be the speaker." I’ve wasted a lot of money, myself, over the years by attending events and not applying some basic networking principles. I have learnt from my mistakes.
Here are a few simple guidelines for events.
Don’t attend an event if you can’t answer these 4 questions about yourself:
- Who are you?
- What do you do?
- How does that help your clients?
- What’s your USP?
6 event tips
- Act like the host – it’s obvious, but hardly anyone does it
- Try and invite someone or a few people to join you at the event - a good client, staff member, supplier, etc
- Ask these 3 questions when meeting new people, and then probe and build on their responses: “What prompted you to come along tonight?” “What type of work do you do? Wow, sounds interesting.” “Tell me, how did you get into that type of work?”
- Think deeper rather than wider regarding new contacts. Focus on establishing rapport with 3 people as opposed to 30
- Introduce people to each other and look for common ground
- Use a strategy to remember people’s names
Staying in touch
Be careful. It’s a bit like dating. Don’t be a stalker. Too soon, with follow up, and it can smell of desperation. Too often, and if it’s not being reciprocated, you’ll do more damage than good.
Maybe leave it a day or two. Send them a short email with your v-card attached. Ask them if they would be happy to be added to your distribution list.
Great networkers realise that it takes time to establish proper business relationships. If you meet someone this Christmas and they start immediately referring you work, I’d be concerned. We like to work with people we like and trust. Great networkers appreciate that networking is very different to speed dating.
Make an effort to stay in touch. How you choose to do that will vary depending on your role and people’s receptiveness to you. Don’t over-analyse this. I recommend communicating with new contacts once a quarter. Invite them to an event that you think they might be interested in. Ask if they’d like to be a speaker or guest at an event you are hosting. Find a way of staying on their radar without annoying them. Email those articles or links to sites they could be interested in.
Remember their little details and build on this - kids’ names, interests outside of work, holidays, aspirations, people they know that you know. It all helps. Google your contacts from time to time.
Firstly, you have to decide you want to be a better networker. Stick with it. It takes time. You need to work at it. The rewards are enormous. Attend some events and have a plan at those events. Take an interest in people and find out as much as you can about them. Make an effort to build your contacts. Aim for a certain number per month of new, meaningful contacts. As a starting point, I suggest try for one new contact per week.