The age-old adage of “it’s not what you know but who you know” is thrown around when talking about networking, and we think it’s got a bit tired. Creating and maintaining a professional network is the point of ‘network’ing but networking for networking’s sake misses this fundamental. There always needs to be an outcome, or else what is the point? This is especially important when running a business as networking can function as a platform for the creation of opportunities; something which should never be undervalued. The benefits of networking are obvious enough, ranging from raising your business’ profile to meeting professionals whose advice might well help you on the way to achieving your goals. It is securing that golden outcome that is the tricky part. With this in mind, take a look at our Top 6 tips for effective networking.
Spread the Net
In 1990 John Guare produced a play that popularised a concept originally conceived by Frigyes Karinthy in 1929; the 6 degrees of separation theory – in essence, he argued, we are all 6 steps or fewer away from an introduction to every other person in the world. The ultimate network. Spreading the net is one of the principal techniques on the road to getting an outcome and it’s one that needs to be done effectively. It is a process that requires a scientific approach that is logical and planned – start by grouping your contacts by relevance; this will focus your efforts and increase the chance of a result by helping to build your ‘referral-networks’ so that you can tap into Karithy’s 6 degrees of separation theory.
Quality, Not Quantity
Spreading the net is all well and good, but what if you’re casting it in the wrong waters? Rather than concentrating on securing as many connections as possible, focus on the relevance of each connection made. Evaluate the prospect of mutual benefit, taking into account educational and employment background (and therefore reciprocal referral networks), interests and needs. This will allow you to really pinpoint the professionals worth reaching out to.
Make an Impact
You have to make a mark to really make the connection. And this isn’t anything to do with science, or logic, or any step-by-step guide that you can buy off the shelf; it is about flare and impact and colour. Networking will only be successful for individuals who can differentiate themselves when the connection made, who can – excuse the cliché –stand out from the crowd. Once that first impression is made, it will stick, so make sure it’s one that is relevant, interesting and/or unique.
Get Personal Over Time & Build trust
Networking only works if you effectively maintain the connections made. Developing and maintaining relationships with contacts is something that requires time, care and conversations, yes real face-to-face conversations (email is never enough)! After all, people do business with those that they trust. Something to keep in mind here is that people love to talk about their professional selves – listen attentively and rather than concentrating on formulating a response, really take in what is being said. This will help with the following tip.
Help me to Help You
When networking it’s really important to focus onto how you can benefit others. Central to this is uncovering the needs of others. Once you have identified an apparent need, offer something of value, be that advice, one of your contacts or some useful content (make sure to keep it focused and relevant). The key to success here is giving what you want to get, in other words – “Treat others as you would be treated yourself”. If you are looking for help, offer help. If you are looking for more traffic on a website or blog, send others traffic.
Get an outcome
Ask yourself a simple question after the conversation, the email exchange, the LinkedIn Chat; so what outcome have I achieved? If the objective was to reach into another person’s network to people who might help you, did you achieve that? Did you get an email introduction, a phone number, an email address?
Following the steps above will help you on your way to achieving your networking goals. But remember, no outcome, no point!