Having a strong personal brand requires being connected to a network of resources for mutual development and growth. We achieve our greatest success through our relationships with others. That’s why it is critical to build and maintain your network. Personal networks are largely external, made up of discretionary links to people with whom we have something in common. As a result, what makes a personal network powerful is its referral potential. According to the famous six degrees of separation principle, our personal contacts are valuable to the extent that they help us reach, in as few connections as possible, the far-off person who has the information we need.
What differentiates a leader from a manager, research tells us, is the ability to figure out where to go to enlist the people and groups necessary to get there. Recruiting stakeholders, lining up allies and sympathizers, diagnosing the political landscape, and brokering conversations among unconnected parties are all part of a leader’s job. As they step up to the leadership transition, some managers accept their growing dependence on others and seek to transform it into mutual influence. Networking is a proven strategy for building your business and experienced business people know that anything is possible through networking. You must constantly expand your network of contacts and think of them as an investment from which you may eventually be able to collect a return.
There are numerous ways you can expand your network of contacts. You can ask members of your current network for referrals. If you have good business relationships with these people, they can be some of your best lead generators, as they know you personally and can easily build trust and rapport for you. You can also join professional or trade organizations or at least attend events that these organizations offer. These are perfect opportunities to grow your network, as everyone is there for that specific purpose. Another great way is by attending expos, trade shows, and professional seminars. Finally, social media, when used properly, can also be a prime resource for expanding your network. One of the best ways to keep your business going is to create opportunities. Opportunities come from cultivating relationships and sharing ideas, information and resources.
Networking is the act of connecting with people for business, information, or friendship. Know your product or service as best as you can. The more you know about your product or service, the more people listen. Have pre-qualifying questions ready when you meet someone. The more prepared you are, the less time you waste. After exchanging cards, debrief and ask those pre-qualifying questions. If the person you are speaking with is not the decision maker, you need to ask if they can help you, by putting you in contact with the person you do need.
Always remember: the dumbest question is the one you do not ask. Remember: when in doubt, don’t. Have people call you, unless it is in your best interest, then you make the first call. Ask when will be a good time to call, morning or afternoon, get a specific time and make sure you call. Always ask for alternative numbers and email. Make sure you follow up, follow up, and follow up.
It takes time for results. Most people will benefit in about two to three months of consistent networking. Just remember: “You can always give in; you can always give out; but don’t ever give up.” Stay positive: success is 80% psychology (right mindset) and only 20% mechanics (taking action).
Watch the Webinar to learn the full details of these networking strategies and much more and to become more comfortable with “The Art of Interacting with others.” Bert Oliva is the Author of 10 Empowering Networking Techniques.