People do business with people they know, like and trust. Companies don't make decisions, people do. Your professional network can open doors for you that otherwise could not be opened. All successful business owners know that they were only able to get to where they are now because of the people who helped them along the way.
A strong professional network can help you achieve things that you would never accomplish on your own, from solutions to seemingly impossible problems, to word-of-mouth recommendations that could get your foot in the door with your target market. Networking can be daunting, but the more you network, the larger your network will become and as a result, creating a personal brand has never been easier.
In a professional setting, people prefer to build business relationships with people they see as being valuable. By building a reputation as someone who is talented, helpful, and valuable, people will be more motivated to meet and stay in touch with you.
When people in your network get stronger, you get stronger. By helping people in your network get stronger, they may be in a better position to be able to help you in the future. In addition, per the law of reciprocity, people may be more motivated to return the favour.
If no one knows what you're doing, it's like it never happened. Maintain regular and consistent communication with people you want to stay in touch with. Communicate via email, blogging, social networking and in-person.
Connections open doors, but relationships close deals. Networking is not just about exchanging business cards and connecting on LinkedIn. Networking is most valuable when long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationships are formed.
Listening is one of the most valuable, yet commonly overlooked, skills to have in networking and in business. People love to talk about themselves and appreciate when you take a genuine interest in what they have to stay. Listening will help you to get to learn about peoples' challenges and get to know them better, which can ultimately lead to more productive professional relationships. Ask open-ended questions, be genuinely interested, and express interest and curiosity.
Build a reputation as someone who delivers on their promises and is persistent. Follow up with people who promised to do something for you. Follow up on emails you send that get ignored. Do what you promised to do for others.
Who should be in your network?
Your network can be made up of almost anyone you've ever met and each of your contacts can lead you to new ones, be selective about whom to include.
- Current and former co-workers
- Co-members in professional associations
- Friends and Family
- Former lecturers and teachers
Before you ask for something, give something. It's important to build some social capital with the people in your network before you start asking for favours.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.