John Bennett/ March 13, 2020/ Development, Networking

We establish, maintain, and use personal connection networks in order to develop personally and professionally, gain personal comfort and security with others, and build businesses. Networking is a two-way process. By giving to those in our network, we are also likely to receive from our network. Every networking relationship has at least four beneficiaries: you, your organization, the person with whom you are networking, and their organization.

There are many benefits of networking. People have made career changes, found their life-partners, avoided personal and financial disasters, resolved conflicts, built businesses, and even met people they admire by building strong networks. While entering into a networking relationship with someone can provide many opportunities, developing it presents responsibilities for everyone involved. Put these 13 basic tips and suggestions into practice for building, maintaining, and utilizing a strong personal and professional network:

  1. Understand others BEFORE you expect them to understand you. When you meet people for the first time, invest 80% of the conversation in asking them questions about themselves and their business. Talk very little about yourself and your business. Engage them in the conversation…show curiosity about them, their interests, and their work. However, take great care to avoid questions that make others feel you are interrogating them or getting too personal. Only ask questions of others that you would be willing to answer for yourself.
  2. Build relationships. Networking is about building lasting relationships with little or no expectation. Be sensitive to the differences of others. Carefully “step into their context” and recognize the differences. Networking takes time and hard work. Creating a network that you can call upon, or to whom you can refer others, can only be done one relationship at a time. Above all, be patient. Don’t be too pushy, but be persistent. A good relationship takes time to develop and it is worth the wait.
  3. Start with who you know. Building a strong network of relationships begins with the people you already know (and who know you best) before building outward. Make a list of all the “worlds” you have in your life—e.g., college and graduate schools, family, neighbors, professional associations, conference attendee, civic/community groups, former employers, children’s groups (school, sports, etc.), church/synagogue, etc. Then, make a list of as many people in each of these groups who know you and that you can contact or reconnect with. These people know you, you know them, and you have something in common. Rebuild or strengthen relationships.
  4. Generously share your network with others. If you have a referral for someone, don’t wait until the next time you see that person. Share it immediately. Give at least five times as many referrals to others as you expect in return. Maintain a list of 100 individuals to whom you can refer business as well as those who can refer business to you. Let people know they are on your referral list. Don’t give the same referral to more than one or two people in your network. This will wear out your network and dilute your networking power.
  5. Treasure your network. Again, networking is about building lasting relationships with little or no expectation. When you begin to approach networking with the purpose of getting someone to buy a product or service, you are no longer networking. You are selling. Don’t confuse the two.
  6. Be prepared to tell others about yourself. Know yourself and be able to sell yourself. Offer something people desire. Talk convincingly about the value you offer. Motivate others to speak highly of you and what you have to offer. Deliver more than you promise. Seek ways to add value. Be prepared with a self-introduction—this is your “elevator speech.” You should have a 30-second introduction that tells who you are, what you do, whom you work for or represent, and the impact of your work.
  7. Recognize others. Send notes of congratulations to people who achieve milestones and deserve admiration. Promptly writing a courtesy email or thank-you note will create a lasting positive impression of you on the receiver. Encourage others to reach their dreams and goals. By helping others achieve their goals, you will get to know them better, possibly use your network to help them, and create an endearing “network-ship”.
  8. Be trustworthy. Build and maintain a positive reputation. Do no wrong. If you do, correct it immediately. Be above reproach. This will help you “win friends and influence people.”
  9. Attend networking events. Look for events that will attract the people you want to add to your network. Remember that as a networker you are attending the event to meet people more than for the event itself. These events offer rich opportunities to interact with people already in your network. Use networking events to cultivate and enrich existing relationships.
  10. Extend your hand. Remember that no one is a stranger once you have introduced yourself. Make eye contact and repeat the person’s name several times. Everyone likes hearing one’s own name, and you will be more likely to remember it. If you have any doubt that the other people will recall your name, make it easy for them. Tell them your name and how they might remember you. Don’t assume that everyone you remember will remember you.
  11. Ask, without questioning. Remain curious. Resist the temptation to talk about yourself or “over-relate” to something the other person is saying before you’ve asked questions and encouraged them to tell their story or share their experience. Remaining curious does not meet you should interview or interrogate someone. And, avoid asking “why?”. “Why?” questions tend to foster defensiveness and promote philosophical responses.
  12. Distribute business cards. Always carry your business card, making sure your business card looks as professional as you care to be remembered. Keep the text clean and succinct. Make sure the information is up-to-date and provides appropriate ways for people to contact you.
  13. Follow-up on all contacts. Identify at least one thing you can do to follow up with all new contacts. This may mean sending them a recent article on a subject of common interest, passing along a greeting to a mutual friend, or connecting them with someone in your network. You can also send them a note saying how pleased you are to have met them. Use this follow-up as a way of reconnecting with the person you have just met and do it within 48 hours.

Are there other things you’ve found helpful in building your network? I’m interested in your thoughts, so please leave your comments below.

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash


© 2020, John L. Bennett. All Rights Reserved.

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1 Comment

  1. JLB is correct: networking is hard. So is finding success. Networking makes success easier, and more fulfilling. Quit reading this and go network!

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