Networking is about connecting with people internally and externally to share information and create a mutually beneficial relationship. While some people seem to be able to work a room and contacts with ease, it’s not an inborn talent. It comes with years of practice. There are networking techniques.
Kathryn Minshew at the Harvard Business Review recommends getting out there as much as possible. It’s all about being connected, she says. Kathryn’s advice is that managers and entrepreneurs should start out by going to one industry-related event per week, then three, then eight. They should also sign up for events and newsletters in their industry. In other words, managers need get out from behind their desks.
Leadership coach Ricky Nowack suggests sending letters, cards or phone calls to people who could make a significant difference to your business. After you meet someone, she says, make contact soon after. Don’t just file their card. And build the relationship before asking for business or referrals. She also recommends writing down three things about the person after you meet them: one personal, one descriptive and one business interest. That way you will always have something to draw from when you meet them again. Once you have established the relationship, she says you should ask for referrals. Don’t be afraid of asking them if there are other people you should meet who could benefit from the exchange. And finally, build your profile. Get your name out there.
Lou Dubois at Inc.com recommends managers use technology. Indeed, technology is wonderful. These days, you can Google people, look at their LinkedIn profile, their Facebook information and their Twitter stream. It’s a way of getting to know more about them.
He also recommends setting up networking categories. The first would be everyone in your database. That is to say, everyone you have connected with by phone, email, speaking engagement, on Twitter or through LinkedIn. The next category is the immediate network which can include friends, family or our immediate business network. This shouldn’t extend to more than 200 contacts. Then you have the inner circle, usually about 50 people who can rotate annually and give you candid career feedback about your career and opportunities. After then comes the group you can call your personal board of advisors. This group comprises 5-6 individuals you are particularly close to. They should be your go-to network for advice that not only touches on your career, but on you. And finally, there are your friends and family, people who probably like you because they either have to, or they just do.
Consultant Ivan Misner, who specialises in helping entrepreneurs build networks, says face to face networking is most effective when you are offering advice or assistance without making it sound like you’re trying to sell them something. It’s also a good idea, he says, to become a trusted source for referrals and contacts. That way, you build trust and you are sure to get something back.
What networking advice would you offer?