When operating your own business, having good networking skills is vital for success! Same if you are working for someone else or looking for work.
Building a network is not as hard as you might think. You just have to remember it is a living thing. It will grow and thrive when cared for.
It’s a fact. Say you need a query from the IT department, who is always flooded with requests, and having a good relationship with someone in the team can make the difference between getting your query as requested – and quickly so you can get that last minute assignment from your boss done on time or not. Say you have applied to your dream job at Company X. Knowing someone with a good reputation within the company can help you get that call to HR that somehow never went through before. Same goes for entrepreneurs. Establishing good relationships with customers can be the difference between success and growth or bankruptcy.
Today, we all rely on word-of-mouth to tell us what others really think about a product rather than trusting a sales person in the store. Most of us are cruising the web for days before deciding on which cell phone to buy, looking at all the reviews and comparing pros and cons. We are more likely to trust someone we have a connection with even more so. Having a good reputation goes hand-in-hand with being a good networker.
Below are 6 keys to successfully growing your own network:
Be aware of your surroundings
You never know who and when you will meet so always be on your best behavior! And don’t be shy. Say hello to the person you are sitting next to. He or she could turn out to be Steve Jobs’ prodigy.
Keep track of your contacts
First off, get organized! It is important to divide your contacts into groups. Always separate your professional from your personal. Then delve deeper into the professional contacts list. Are they investors? Vendors? Customers? Colleagues/business acquaintances – from which company?
Second, know who your contacts are. Not just their name and what company they work for. Where did you meet? Through whom? Do they have kids? Are they married? Do they like to golf or play music? Are they into cars or do they have a stamp collection? Knowing these kinds of details will help you establish a stronger connection with that person.
Finally, take notes! It’s ok to not have the memory of Sheldon. Most of us don’t. So keep notes and preferably have them available in real time in case you randomly bump into one of them on the street!
Think long term
As I mentioned before, a network is a living organism. It requires attention. Keeping in touch with your contacts is important. Send birthday cards, Christmas cards, or shoot them an email about something that reminded you of them. Just remember to let them know that you are still there. With some groups it doesn’t have to be every day. That’s another reason why they are grouped. To identify those who require more attention than others.
Also, when someone helps you, follow up. Let them know what actions you took, whether it was introducing yourself to one of their contacts and using them as a reference or that you checked out the auto mechanic they recommended to you. And always, always…and did I say always, tell them thank you! Let them know you appreciated their help. They didn’t have to do it. But they did. And they will be glad that you recognize that. And they will remember it.
The more you give, the more you get
This one’s pretty straightforward. It’s like karma – what comes around, goes around. Everything is a give and take. If you give to others, they will give back to you.
Don’t take advantage of someone
It really doesn’t take much to hurt someone’s feelings. And if it happens remember to apologize. But if you remember to always say “Thank You” you should be good to go.
Put your foot where your mouth is
Or ‘Walk the Walk’ as the saying goes. If you say you will do something, then do it. And do it to the best of your ability. This will build the strongest bond of trust between you and your network. People will trust you when connecting you with their own contacts. And they will be the best support system. Shouting your praises for everyone to hear.
So take the time to organize yourself, know that you get what you give, distance yourself from negative actions, and do what you say even better than you say it.
Build a network on actions not words! Then you will be ready to grow your own healthy and thriving network!