Over time I’ve become more and more convinced that networking / relationship building is one of the most important skills a person can develop. It really doesn’t matter what line of business you are in or what your role is, networking can help you be more successful.
Building your network is like planting seeds. You can’t expect to have a few meetings with people and then reap the rewards. It takes patience and in my experience, a systematic approach to really see the benefits of those relationships.
6 Keys to being a great networker:
#1 – You have to be genuine. This is the most important aspect of networking. Everyone can see through people who are just networking for networking’s sake. If you don’t enjoy the people you’re trying to connect with then move on. The best networker that I know genuinely builds friendships with people and he essentially never asks anything in return. Since they happen to be people he could work with in the future, he knows if an opportunity comes up they’ll probably reach out to him. Which leads me to…
#2 – Don’t be aggressive. You can think of networking like dating. Don’t propose on the first date. Take your time, build the relationship based on trust and friendship, and don’t expect results immediately.
#3 – Understand your network is not your LinkedIn contacts. My network is full of people I really like grabbing coffee or lunch with. And I’m talking about my actual network, not my LinkedIn contacts. That’s certainly a network but its less personal. I’ll pretty much connect with anyone on LinkedIn and I’m happy to do it, and sometimes friendships form from there but my real network is a smaller group of personal friends. LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram…those are all networks that can be used for business, but if you really want results you need to focus in on a smaller group that you enjoy spending time with.
#4 – Have a plan. For the people that I want to keep in touch with on a regular basis, I try to set reminders to make sure that happens (here’s how I use Evernote to set reminders). And for people with very tough schedules – which is easily half my network – I just plan a month or two out to meet with them. Locking down calendars far in advance is an important part of networking. I also try to take diligent notes in Evernote after I meet with someone so that the next time I meet with them I can remember what we discussed previously.
#5 – Find ways to help the people in your network. Remember that the people in your network are connected to you for the same reasons you’re connected to them – they like hanging out with you and there’s a chance at some point you’ll be able to help them. Again, there’s nothing wrong with that second part and everyone knows that’s part of the game. Be conscious of ways that you can help people in your network and they’ll be more likely to help you out when you need it.
#6 – Be a connector. One of the things I try to do is connect people within my network. The more connected your network is within itself, the stronger it will be. Plus, everyone likes to meet people who can strengthen their network and help them accomplish their goals, so its a win-win. And I have to say, the people in my network that happily and proactively connect me to other people are some of my favorite people!
Those are the 6 keys for how I think about networking. What are some keys to networking that you think I missed?