It’s becoming more critical than ever to build a strong network group. You’ve heard the saying, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” Well, as unfair as this may seem, there’s some truth to this statement. Consider this statistic from The United States Bureau of Labor: 70% of all jobs are found through networking.
Effective networking is all about building relationships. Networking is not about collecting as many business cards as possible. It’s not about blurting out everything about you and your company. And, it’s certainly not about asking for help – at least during the initial contact.
Let’s face it, we all want to share with the world who we are, what we do, and how we can help. And, how we can help means . . . . how will I benefit from this connection. Basically, this type of networking mentality is “ME” focused. Effective networking must be mutually beneficial to all.
Building authentic and meaningful business relationships takes time. Those you meet are making lightening speed judgements about who you are. They are asking questions such as can you be trusted, are you credible, and will you follow through on what you say you will do.
So, how do you network in an authentic way that builds strong relationships? Focus on the other person. Yes, this can be extremely hard. After all, you have finally arrived to solve the problems of your new contact, and you find yourself talking about their new puppy’s latest escapades.
Genuinely seeking to listen and learn about others comes naturally for some and, unfortunately, not so naturally for most. This will take some practice, intentional effort, and patience. Engage others by focusing on them – their business, their goals, their passions. Networking doesn’t always have to be all business. If you truly want to build meaningful relationships that last, talk about hobbies, favorite vacations, kids and family. Personalize the experience. Here’s where the real connection takes place.
After making a connection, think about ways you can stay connected in a beneficial way. Things to consider include:
- Follow up with e-mails or phone calls.
- Remember special days such as birthdays, promotions, anniversaries.
- Send articles or information of interest.
- Connect colleagues of mutual interest.
- Invite them to events, seminars, or conferences.
Taking time to follow-up in a meaningful way will not only demonstrate your sincerity but will keep you on that person’s radar. The next time your new connection comes across an opportunity that is perfect for you, you can be sure a connection will be made on your behalf.