The Value of Networking

The Value of Networking

The word networking has become so much a part of our everyday speech that we’ve forgotten what it means or how to do it.
 
Networking - HandshakeA network is a group of anything that’s connected in some way. The BBC is a network. It’s a place where the programmes they make or buy can be seen. No one else can broadcast those shows. Networking is the act of creating that network. In business, this means connecting with other people, and in the online world, these connections are virtual. But networking is just the first step. You have to develop those connections into relationships.
 
A few years ago, a book entitled Know Me, Like Me, Follow Me was published. And that title illustrates the confusion. In fact, it’s backwards. Before you’ll take the trouble to know anyone, you’ll have to like him or her; and before you get to that stage, you’ll have to decide to connect, or follow that person. In other words, you’ll have to connect prior to doing anything else.

What criteria do you use when someone wants to connect with you?

If you are an open networker, if you’re willing to connect with almost everyone, then you probably have some specific criteria. Perhaps you’ll want to see a picture of that person and you’re put off by snapshots of pets, babies, and company logos. It could be that there are certain industries that you want to avoid. For example, you can be reasonably sure that recruiters really aren’t as interested in you as they are in your second-level contacts. It’s possible that you only want to have people in your network who work in specific types of jobs, certain companies, or in the same area that you are. And, of course, there are others who are willing to connect with almost anyone, regardless.

You must decide who you want to have in your network.

That’s the easy part: either inviting people to join you or accepting the invitations of others. The next part requires more effort. To benefit the most from your network, you need to get to know the people who are in it. This is where the internet, business forums and social media can be so valuable. For instance, think about LinkedIn, a networking site that’s used by many millions of professionals. 

Have you ever been contacted by anyone in yout LinkedIn network?

If so, what have these messages contained? Sales pitches? They’re quite common. Requests for a performance evaluation? They’re typical, too. How many people have you bought from whose first message was a sales pitch? And how many performance evaluations have you given to those who are in your network, but whom you know nothing about? You see, people that send messages like that don’t understand the value of relationships.

So, how can you make the most of the connections you have?

One way is to search for people who are in companies that you’d like to do business with. Then look at their profiles, past job experience, and interests. Then send them a message that that demonstrates that you’re interested in them personally. Let’s face it. We all know the game. We all want more business. But we all of us want to do business with people we like. And when you receive a sales message out of the blue, it turns you off. That’s because you don’t like it, and as a result you don’t like the messenger either.
 
Another way is to arrange to meet those who are near to where you are or will be. This may seem too overt, but if you’re willing to connect with someone on-line that you’ve never met, why would you resist meeting that person in the flesh? Meeting on neutral ground, such as a coffee shop is always a good idea. There’s something about a public place that removes many of the formalities and obstacles that can occur in an office, for example. For one thing, it’s a more relaxed environment, and for another, it can give you something to talk about; a kind of ice-breaker. Whether you eat together or not you can find out if you share the same taste in food. Perhaps you both hate the same things. It’s possible that the service will be particularly good or bad. You may even have had to trudge through heavy rain or snow to get there. All of these things enable you to share the same experiences and, when that happens, you suddenly have something in common. That alone can create a bond.

Remember the classic quote from Stephen Covey – Seek first to understand, before trying to be understood

Or the even older one from Dale Carnegie, who wrote “How to win friends and influence people” – Become a good listener; get the other person to do a lot of the talking. Be interested in them rather than trying to tell interesting stories about yourself. Find out about them, their business, their ambitions and their challenges. They will love talking and you will learn about their fit with your business and goals. I promise you that the next time you communicate with them, they will remember that occasion, and want to know you.  There’s absolutely no point in asking people to join your network if you have no intention of getting to know them.
 
But, if you’re willing to take the first step, then the chances are that you’ll not only enhance your network - you will also make a friend.
 
 
If you would like to learn more about developing valuable business relationship through being more effective at networking - then contact me here

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