“Hello Colin, what do you want now?” This reaction to my call (many years ago) stopped me in my tracks and taught me a great deal about networking. For instance…
- Networking requires give and take ― it is not a selfish pursuit.
- If you don’t keep it alive, it will die ― probably quite quickly.
- Unless the social connection is present, it will be transactional.
- It is very hard to do, especially if you are busy.
- Networking yields great benefits over a long period of time.
There is no easy answer to this problem, because at the end of the day it all comes down to you. You have the power to make it happen, or continue to let it drift. But, since we like to help people, here are eleven quick tips to get you moving again…
- Increase Frequency/Reduce Depth. You don’t have to spend two hours having lunch with someone to continue building the relationship. Quick emails, texts, IMs or calls can keep you visible and add value without taking a great deal of time.
- Vary Medium. Networking these days is so much more than lunch. Communicating in a variety of ways keeps things alive and can be more efficient too. Get to know how your connections like to engage and use all channels available.
- Leverage Technology. This may be controversial, but to stay in someone else’s network you have to remain visible, not necessarily have two-way interactions all of the time. Using Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook etc. has the potential to keep the relationship going without expecting them to respond immediately — they are busy too you know.
- Get More Purpose. If you can determine exactly what you want to get out of your networking, you will quickly find ways to cut out activity which doesn’t contribute, so you can focus on what networking is most useful.
- Delegate. You don’t have to do it all yourself. You delegate other work, so why not see what you could do here. Of course, you cannot totally delegate your relationships, but there could be many ways to get help to make it more efficient for you ― if only organising and sending out articles and notes to people in your networking.
- Segment Network Value. Salespeople segment their clients and prospects depending on the potential revenue they could generate. You could adopt a similar approach based on how valuable each person in your network is. Remember to keep it two-way.
- Analyse Gaps. Based on your purpose, you can start to identify gaps in your network, or where you need to improve the quality of relationships. Once you notice the gaps, you can begin to find ways to fill them efficiently.
- Get Referrals. Instead of toiling trying to find people to fill the gaps, ask people you already have a relationship with to recommend others you should be talking to. Remember, reciprocity!
- Set Metrics and Goals. Yes, for some this can be a great way of treating networking just like any other area of your work. How many people do you want in each part of your network? How would you measure the quality of a connection? How many high-quality connections will you have by end of Q1? Go on, have some fun!
- Get Organised. Successful networking requires a plan (especially if you’ve been giving yourself goals). Networking is much more complex than simply turning up to events. So develop a simple plan and schedule the activities.
- Create Habits. You will have many different activities which contribute to your networking; try to make them habitual, so that even when you are really busy, you just do it.
These are just a few brief ideas from me, and I am sure that you have many of your own tips as well. Since this is such an important topic, it would be great if we could build on this and share your ideas too, so we can all learn how to become better at networking, even though we are exceptionally busy.