Years ago, when I was first starting out in business, a very successful friend told me: “it’s all about the people you know.”
At the time, those words didn’t really penetrate. As with most things, it wasn’t till I’d been in the business world for a while that I truly came to realise how important having a network is.
Now most people believe having a network means having a few hundred connections on LinkedIn and a database that you send your newsletter to once a month. I’m sorry to say, but ‘NO’ this is not a network!
Your network is your community; it’s the people who know you, like you, trust you and are willing to help you in some way. Your network are people you have met, started relationships with and can easily pick up the phone and catch up with them without it feeling awkward or forced.
I’m a big believer that if you have 72 active people in your network then you will ALWAYS have an opportunity. The unfortunate part is that most people have a lot more than 72 people, but have no real relationship with them besides sending them those annoying email blasts once a month.
So here’s how you can become a better networker and have bettr networks within the next month.
1. You need to understand what your current network looks like
Who is in it? Where are they from? How long has it been since you’ve spoken to them? Do you have all their contact details? Do a stock take of your current network and remove anyone you don’t have a relationship with or, more importantly, don’t want to have a relationship with.
Now you have a starting number of people in your network.
TIP: If you haven’t spoken to them in the past 4-5 months then either remove them or re-engage with them to see if the relationship is still there. Write down your starting network number.
2. Get organised
You now have a network, well done! Now you need to get these people organised and in a system you can easily keep updated and in order. You can do this using a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system. It’s best to use a cloud based CRM so you can access it where ever you have internet and especially via your phone and tablet.
Your CRM should allow you to tag your people, make notes, have all their contact details and put them into groups. It would also be great if your CRM allowed you to email from it so that you could track who you are sending emails to all in the one system. This now means you can now keep track of your conversations.
TIP: You will need to pay, but not much more than $29 per month. It is money well spent because the alternative is a large pile of business cards!
3. Time to grow your network
It’s now time to start building new relationships with new people. There are a few ways you can do this.
One way is to go out to different networking events and meet new people. Another is to ask your current network to connect you to people they know you’d be interested in meeting.
You can also go online and connect with people on social platforms. Don’t just add anyone to your network; you need to make sure that they are people you want to talk to and build win/win opportunities with. Meet with them first and work out if they belong in your network.
TIP: Make sure you go to networking groups where your type of person will be, search for groups by the type of people that attend.
4. Nurture the relationships you’ve built
So your network is growing and this is great! But we need to nurture those new relationships and begin finding ways to help your network. If you only ask your network to do things for you and never offer anything in return you will quickly lose those people. When you speak with your network find out how you can help them, find out who they would like to meet and find out what goals you can help them with. The more you can help your network the more they will try to help you.
TIP: Your mindset will determine your success. I always think ‘how can I help before I ask for help.’
5. Create opportunities
The final step in the process is to actively create new opportunities with the people in your network. You have a network so that they can open new doors for you; it is not about selling to your network but selling to their network. As you speak to the people in your network create new win/win promotions that allow both of you to get new business. Imagine if you did 10 cross-promotions in the month how much more business that could provide you?
TIP: When creating cross-promotions start by asking how you can help them. If your relationship is truly mutually beneficial, a natural extension of the conversation will be them offering to reciprocate.
It is one thing to have a network and it is another to ensure that you are managing and using it correctly. The more active you are with your network and the more useful you are, the more business you will get. The adage ‘what you put out will come back to you’ is never truer than here.
When was the last time you reached out to someone in your network with a genuine win-win proposition?