One of the greatest ways to develop your business is to develop a great network. Just by increasing the circle of people in your network, you will see dramatic benefits. A few of these benefits include:
Opportunity to generate new business contacts, leads, clients, customers
Provide opportunities to promote your services/products
Enable you to meet owners or decision makers from many other businesses
Establish yourself as a domain expert
Reduce the need for cold calling
Grow knowledge and share ideas and experiences with like minded people
Find new potential service providers
Form alliances and affiliations
Gain testimonials and recommendations
To get the most out of your networking opportunities you need to do some preparation and planning.
1. Consider networking as an important part of your personal development. It can not only give you the opportunities listed above, but also help you identify mentors and coaches willing to help you and also potential sources of funding.
2. Aim for a broader network of people who can support you in different ways. Think of those you can help as we as be helped by. From your list of contacts identify those who add the most value and think laterally to see if individuals can fill any gaps in your skill set.
3. Some people will just try to leach from you, time, energy and your contacts. Avoid these people
4. Build you network quickly by finding common ground. Find topics/skills/hobbies that you share.
5. Try to get on people’s wavelengths quickly by gaining rapport as soon as possible.
6. Be open with yourself about your own goals and aspirations. This will help you to clarify your reasons from gaining contacts in you network and help you target then most appropriate people.
7. Understand the goals of others before focusing on your own. As Stephen Covey suggests, Seek first to understand and then to be understood.
8. Build long term relationships based on mutual understanding. – Networking is a life long process that forms enduring bonds between people.
9. Become an interesting conversationalist. This means you need to broaden your interests and reading. Having an opinion on most things can at least help you to discuss a subject with conviction rather than having to create a viewpoint on the spot!
10. Become image conscious but not vain. Your image can be an asset or a liability, either way it is part of your personal brand and you need to protect it.
11. Always follow up. A thank you is a powerful tool.
12. Keep a good recording system for your network. Your network is a useful tool so make sure it meets your requirements and is easy to access. Name number and email address at the very least.
13. Be bold in approaching people you want to meet. Empathy and impact make a lasting first impression. Have a script for each type of person you want to meet. Eg Senior manager, colleague, staff. This will improve your confidence and help you make a better impression.
14. Do research before meeting new networkers. It shows respect to know things that are easily learned about someone you want to add to your network.
15. Once you have added a contact to you network. Remain in contact with them by what ever means is appropriate.
16. Network more when you don’t need to. Start your campaign now. Networking is a life long activity.
Dare to Aspire