“Networking is always important when it’s real, and it’s always useless when it’s fake.” – Seth Godin
When I decided to investigate how some of the most successful networkers operated both online and offline, I was desperate to know the “differences”.
Some of the greatest teachers of our time encourage their followers to look for the distinctions in life – the greater your knowledge of these distinctions, the greater your capability to deal with life’s challenges.
Interestingly, regardless of whether the experts I interviewed were using offline events, clubs and conferences to build their networks, or whether they were joining digital communities and groups online, their actions were underpinned by the same operating principles and many of the same activities.
From interviews with leading business experts, I’ve identified their Top 10 tips for networking success. I’ve called them the “Magic 10” because they kept appearing in interview after interview, seemingly from out of nowhere. If you can integrate these tips into everything you do, you will have a thriving business network in no time.
- Who do you want to meet?
- Who is going to help you and/or your business move to the next level?
- What do they do and where can they be found?
These are the questions that may keep you awake at night and, ironically, they could also be the questions that are preventing you from building great connections and great relationships right now.
Don’t be in such a hurry to get to any one individual, start where you are and share your aspirations with the people you know already.
Richard Branson is probably on more than 90% of the written lists in this area, so a better focus might be on “successful entrepreneurs” of which there are probably a dozen in your second tier LinkedIn network!
“Hi!” Those two letters, when accompanied by a genuine desire to find out something about the other person, are your most powerful tool when it comes to connecting.
You don’t have to be the world’s greatest conversationalist to have a great conversation with another human being; you just need to be interested. Be curious to find out more, listen and let their responses dictate the flow of the conversation – it’s not rocket science (although it could be!)
If you have made a connection, meeting up again is a no-brainer and will put you in the top 10% of networkers who understand that following up is essential if you are going to grow your network. Meet, drink, eat or even ski – get to know them with no fixed agenda.
When was the last time you really listened to the person you were talking to at a networking event?
Listening is not waiting for your turn to speak or interrupting to offer some advice, it is focusing on all of their words to completely understand their situation/story/needs. Only then can we respond effectively and be of most service.
The concept of giving first in a new relationship is embedded into every major networking group because it says that you value the other person and it demonstrates your commitment. Full stop.
Who supports you when you fall upon hard times or when you just need some words of kindness?
Think about how they offer that support and model it with those closest to you in your networks. Again, the emphasis is on what you can do for others; your kindness will not go unrewarded.
Listening, helping, supporting and being genuinely interested in the individuals in your network is critical but only get you half way there when it comes to being a trusted connection.
The final two elements are reliability and integrity. Indeed, integrity was the most commonly repeated quality that good networkers look for when developing their inner circle – simply because integrity is a 100% thing, you cannot fake it or hope to get by with a record of acting with integrity 99% of the time – the 1% deficit will kill your networks overnight.
Online tools make the ability to recognise, appreciate, praise and congratulate your connections when they achieve personal milestones. Leading or joining in the celebration, however small, is the least that a good friend would do and good friends, look after one another, sometimes for life.
These online interactions of course replicate offline actions such as picking up the phone or writing a short note; little cost to you and a priceless memory for your connection.
Don’t assume that everyone in your network knows what it is you need to move your life forward. The sheer volume of noise in the networks, in the media and in just living in our increasingly complex world could mean that even your closest contacts miss it when you are facing a particular challenge.
Ask for help; far from being perceived a burden, many of your nearest and dearest would be horrified if you didn’t ask for their help. Make it easy for people to say “no” if they cannot help this time and don’t assume it is a reflection of your current relationship, they may genuinely just be unable to help right now.
There are as many ways to say thank you to your network as there are referrals they can make for you.
As well as the standard verbal and written “thanks” that are hugely appreciated, you can also generate a warm glow by simply saying good things about the people in your network whenever you get an opportunity; after all, look at who they have chosen to have in their networks?
More advice for successful networking
For more help on making sure your networking efforts are rewarded, read these;
- 5 networking secrets used by professionals
- How to build a strong, powerful, strategic network
- The best way to make business networking work for you
- How to create business cards that make a big impression
About the author
This article was written for ByteStart by Simon Phillips. He is a business consultant, career mentor, speaker and author of “The Complete Guide to Professional Networking: The Secrets of online and offline success”
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