It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.
That’s a mantra we hear time and again. No matter what line of business you are in, you’re going to need to network.
However, this isn’t a directly profitably business pursuit, as you can’t simply expect people to hand you money because you’re doing a great job – you have to spend time building a relationship with them and learning about how you can help each other.
Considering that you’re unlikely to have eons of time to dedicate to networking and it can seem like an almost pointless task.
So, how can you make networking worth your while?
Quality over quantity
Networking isn’t about just meeting anyone and everyone. It’s about meeting the right people. Once you’ve identified who these people are, these are the relationships you need to focus on. They deserve your regular contact and attention.
Work out leveraging your next step
While the individuals who are working on a similar level to you and your business are where most of your networking efforts should go, they aren’t the only ones worth building relationships with. Behind these individuals will be other contacts that have the potential to be just as valuable, you just haven’t made the connection yet.
This group should still be relatively small and certainly manageable. Rather than choosing people at random you should still target specific people you believe will make good contacts. These are the people who you want to build a relationship with and can do so via methods such as e-shots and social media.
Go where your people are
Instead of accepting any and every networking opportunity that comes your way, be discerning. Select the events and interactions which will maximise your time with the right circles. If you’ve been invited to a local chamber of commerce meeting but you work remotely, is that the best use of your time?
Have something to offer
Generally speaking, you never get a free lunch. For networking relationships to be valuable they are a two way street. You have to give to get something in return.
Take time to think about what you have that is of value to the other party. Can you open doors to other contacts? Do you have a service they need? Work out what you’ve got that they want. To do this, put yourself in their shoes and think about their pain-points and how you can add value.
Think about individuals, not job titles
Job titles very rarely tell you the truth about influence and position. You need to network with the influencers as it’s much easier to do this than set your sights on the top echelons of an organisation.
What’s more, individuals who are still establishing their own standing within an organisation are going to be more open to new relationships and building connections than old hands.
Value networking as part of your business
Networking is a way to form solid foundations for your business. When you’re a start-up it’s also hugely important as a means to learn from the mistakes of others, and to garner experienced support.
Therefore, view networking as important as writing your business plan or filing your tax return: it needs to be done. Give it time and attention, but do so efficiently.
The most effective networkers are those who prioritise relationships and are generous themselves. Value relationships and don’t simply think of them in terms of what they can do for you.
What are your thoughts on networking? Do you prefer social media or networking events? Leave your comments in the section below!