Networking ¬ (noun) – interact with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts.
You hear the word networking bandied about with great regularity. Everyone always talks about the importance of building networks.
But what exactly does it mean?
Yes, yes. You and I both know it means making connections.
You meet people all the time. Attend formal networking functions. Join groups. Connect on LinkedIn. Maybe even become friends on Facebook. Yet somehow, the connections are just not working the way you want them to.
You’ve exchanged business cards, and got lots of ”connections”, but still, something seems to be missing.
What is frequently overlooked is that networking is all about maintaining as well as making connections.
It is not enough to just use a speedy few moments to get out your elevator pitch.
To build an authentic network, you need to do more than just an exchange business cards. Business cards are not the be all and end all.
What is important is knowing how you can contact the person you are talking to and remembering some key points about them.
Things like – what do you have in common? Do they have a problem you could help them with? Can you introduce them to someone who could be of value to them?
DO NOT just give them your card and hope they’ll get in touch. That is not networking – it’s more like a face to face letterbox drop.
You need to nurture your connections. Offer support and help where you can, with no expectation of gain.
When you next turn up to a networking function, be sure that you’re ready to create and maximise all opportunities. You never know who you will meet!
Do not consider what they can do for you – it’s about what YOU can do for them. And I don’t mean it’s about what you can sell them. That’s just icky, and pushy!
From personal experience, I can honestly say, that some of my very best opportunities have come from the least expected places.
As you build the relationship, you gain trust.
When trust exists connections start to open up, referrals happen and business starts to flow your way.
I love referring people to others in my network.
But…… I’ll only do it when I know the person I am referring is trustworthy.
By that I mean, I know they’ll be upfront about what they can deliver. They’ll be professional.
This will in turn build further trust in me.
Why? Because I have referred the right person for the task at hand. It’s good for my own networking.
Can you see how this works?
Referrals are a privilege awarded when you are an authentic networker.
With a strong and authentic network, you have a powerful tool. These are people you can turn to in your times of need. But, not until you’ve built a solid foundation of trust.
Networking is something that is ongoing. It needs to be valued and nurtured. It’s part of being a great Smarketer!
To your success!
Michelle Hanton is a multi-award winning bespoke business strategist, working internationally as a consultant, coach, speaker and writer. She has a keen interest in the not-for-profit sector and is the former CEO of Lifeline Top End, and founder of Dragons Abreast Australia, a national charity dedicated to the promotion of breast cancer awareness.