Networking Networking Networking

Take a moment to think about all the business interactions you had last week…..are you thinking? OK, in how many of those interactions were you alone? Were there any?
The truth is so much of business is about relationships: Customer to supplier, manager to employee, co-worker to co-worker, job candidate to hiring manager etc. Really, how many times a day are you alone? Before you answer, keep in mind that your phone relationships count too.
So, we have all these interactions with people but how often are we thinking about our network? Every person we interact with and develop a relationship with, become part of our network. The issue becomes our lack of developing those relationships into a network that we can leverage to drive and ensure our success.
To be successful in today’s economy you have to know how to network effectively. It is not what you know; it’s who you know that will get you in the door. One of the things I love about my job is I have an opportunity to speak with so many people, and the question I seem to encounter the most is “How do I network?”
The first thing to understand is that networking is NOT selling. Many people make that first mistake. People sometimes get confused that when they are in the networking model they are selling a product. The worse thing you could do is go into a sales mode or pitch because it will turn off your audience. You need to understand who your audience is and then plant a seed, peak that person’s interest so they will want to speak with you in the future. When you are networking you are building trust; you are a person they can go to in the future when they have a need.
Secondly, you must have excellent follow through. Once you have an introduction and have made a connection with a person do not let too much time go by without following up. You want that person to remember who you are. Being responsive impresses people, shows that you care about what they told you and makes them feel important. Taking too much time will turn the person off. The goal here is to look responsive, not eager. Just ensure that if you made a commitment on some type of deliverable to another person, meet that commitment. People will remember.
Thirdly, you want to engage your network. Make sure you understand their interests and provide value where you can. Think about the aspects of your life or job where you have experience or expertise to share, and share it. Leveraging social media is a great way to pass along information to your network, through publishing a blog, commenting on a subject of value or engaging in a conversation on twitter.
Don’t forget about your existing network. So many of us are concentrating on growing our network, consumed by how many new friends we have on Facebook or how many followers on Twitter that we forget about maintaining our existing relationships. Make sure you are reaching out to them. I was recently working on a search. The skill set was very specialized; I searched and searched all the tools for “new” people to add to my network. I spent a full week doing this, and then all of a sudden I referenced my database and found 100 people with the required skill set right in my backyard.
Most importantly, you need to invest the time. It is extremely hard today with all the demands we have from work to family life to figure out how to fit networking in. If you really want to improve your networking skills or, if you are just starting out, you need to invest the time. Make a conscious effort to include time to network in your weekly activities. This can happen anywhere: kid’s soccer games with other parents, PTA meetings, softball games, etc. Remember, your relationships are the key. And the good news is that you already have those! You also have a wealth of knowledge and experience that is uniquely yours. Do not underestimate the power of what you know and that it could be valuable to someone else. The bottom line is, if you do not make the conscious effort to do this, you will not see the results you are looking for.
Remember, use whatever tools are available to you to build and enhance those relationships: Phone, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, email, whatever. Just remember to use them! Making the effort and taking that first step will go a long way towards building your Network.

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