What is Networking, anyway?
There are many misconceptions about networking, which is why so many people do it poorly or do not attempt it at all. Networking is not about handing out or receiving the most business cards, and it is not something that happens only at “networking” events. You do not have to start networking to develop a network; you already have one: friends, family, business associates, acquaintances. The goal of networking is to increase the network you already have to make it more powerful for you and every person in it.
Many people also confuse networking with selling. When you approach someone to make a sale, the transaction is the goal. When you approach a new contact in networking, the goal is to learn more about that person and how you can help them, either through information, feedback, or a referral to someone else in your network. A sale should be furthest from your mind unless your contact specifically requests information from you. Networking is like dating, in a sense. Confusing selling with networking is like asking your contact to marry you during your first meeting.
Now that we have removed some misconceptions, let’s talk about networking. Networking is an every day lifestyle of reaching out and connecting with others to form lasting relationships. It is really that simple. And as women this comes naturally to us, though we do not always take the additional step of follow through and keeping in touch.
Giving to Show Value:
You may be asking yourself, “why am I going to focus on helping other people? I have a business to run!” It does seem illogical to focus on everyone else to insure your own success, but I am going to tell you why this is so important.
First, your goal is not just to help other people; it is to add strong, valuable people to your network. When you help like-minded people with their business and personal goals, they will happily help you do the same.
Second, as you add value and connections for other people, you will be seen as someone to know. Do you want to be part of a network of 10 people or 500 people? As you become more connected, more people will want to know you. You will find people seeking you out as much as you are seeking others. The more you attract, the more attractive you become to others, and I am not talking about your appearance!
Third, your focus is not to turn everyone in your network into a customer. Thing bigger. Your goal is to connect with all the people in your network’s network! If each person on average knows at least 200 people, and you have a network of 500 people, you have the potential to reach 100,000 people with the power of a personal recommendation. There is no marketing strategy on the planet that can give you that kind of access to your target market for the money and effort.
Relationship vs. Transaction:
As we discussed above, networking and selling are not the same thing. There are many sales strategies that employ networking skills, and those are generally more successful than cold-call sales. But networking in its purest form is building relationships. When you meet a new contact and become interested in adding her to your network, your goal is to get to know her.
- What are her strengths?
- What are her needs?
- Can you help her accomplish her goals in any way?
- Is she interested in a reciprocal relationship?
Once you decide to add the contact to your database, the important work begins. Like any relationship, you get out of it what you put into it. Adding that person to your mailing list after your first meeting and forgetting about them is not networking. It is actually one of the fastest ways to lose a new contact. When you find a quality contact, you should put a quality effort into getting to know them. Your contacts do not all have to become your friends, though that will happen sometimes, but you should use the same care and attention you do with a new friend when establishing the relationship.
Exercise: Draw a map of your current network and connections you have made through others. Put yourself in a circle in the middle of the page and start drawing out your connections. Your network is bigger than you think! Do you see any potential referrals? Any relationships you would like to deepen? Do you have contacts with a network you would like to join?