“Your network is your net worth”, said John C. Maxwell, author of the bestseller Becoming A Person of Influence.
Currently 70 to 80% of job positions are filled through networking and word of mouth.
Business owners who connect with their clients using multiple platforms consistently get the most business. Even attaining a MBA is no guarantee of success in today’s tough economy. The richest and most successful people in the business world make a concerted effort to master the fine art of networking.
While the practice of networking is not new, it has become a sophisticated art. An adept networker stands head and shoulders above those who are still fumbling in the scene. This article delineates the finer points of networking.
- Radiate positivity. Everyone likes to do business with someone who is enthusiastic and optimistic. There are some who attend networking events and complain about the air-conditioning, the food, the sound system, the crowd, the emcee and just about everything. Instead of quibbling, they should approach the event organiser to at least thank him for taking the time and effort to plan the event or offer constructive feedback. To be respected within your networks, you need to present yourself with a degree of enthusiasm. Engage with people around you with a cheerful, easygoing spirit. Once you have done an effective job of selling yourself, you will be able to reap the reward of seeing your contacts promote you to others! Word of mouth is a powerful yet underrated marketing tool.
- Be Helpful. People generally don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. If you take the initiative to give, participate, and contribute, benefits will come back to you in some way, although they may not necessarily come back immediately from the same person. In fact, sometimes they come back from totally unexpected sources.
Here are some ways to be of value to others:
- Introduce people to others you know
- Recommend products and services that have benefitted you
- Share information that you have learned through your success and failures
- Provide feedback regarding ideas
- Provide encouragement
- Share your knowledge and expertise
Helping others can be done in a variety of ways, from going the extra mile to help with an office move, to clipping a relevant and interesting article and mailing it to an associate or client. These days, this can be done easily via Facebook or Whatsapp.
- Be Appreciative. Gratitude is getting rare in today’s business world. Expressing gratitude to business associates and clients alike is just another building block in the cultivation of relationships that will lead to increased referrals. People like to refer contacts to business professionals who go above and beyond. Thanking others at every opportunity will help you stand out from the crowd.
- Educate and Reinforce. Networking is a learned behaviour, very much like learning to swim. If you’re serious about it, you cannot take breaks from honing your craft. The process takes us through a gradual and sometimes difficult experience, lots of trial and error, and finally a breakthrough. Most people are not born networkers – it does not come naturally to them. Schools do not adequately equip us to be savvy networkers. However, you can arm yourself with the right attitude, education, training, exposure, and lots of practice. To get there, you need to read books, listen to audio, attend seminars, talk to notable networkers, identify and keep up with a mentor, actively participate in networking groups, and apply what you have learnt. It requires a little humility and lots of perseverance.
- Get Carded. All professionals need the tools of their trade to conduct their business. A photographer needs his camera, a painter needs his brush, and a mechanic needs his tool box. Similarly, an effective networker needs to have his tools at hand: a name tag to identify him to others, card holders to carry his business cards, and card files to carry other people’s business cards. You need to let people you meet know who you are and what you do. Show them you mean business. Your business cards, the most basic of all networking tools, are one of the least expensive forms of advertising – so don’t leave home or office without it!
- Network All The Time. Diligent networkers are never “off-duty.” Networking is so natural to them that they can be found networking in the grocery store line, at the doctor’s office and while picking the kids up from school, as well as at the chamber mixers and networking meetings. In other words, be prepared to network in season and out of season.
Final Words of Wisdom
Networking, like a work of art, cannot be rushed or forced – it requires focus and it takes time to develop successful and mutually-beneficial relationships. Take advantage of every opportunity you have to learn to network more effectively. Networking can add fullness to your personal, social, and professional life. As the eminent Robert Kiyosaki observed, “The richest people in the world build networks. Everyone else looks for work.”
So flex those networking muscles today!
Note: This article was first published in The Straits Times on 28 September 2013