No matter what level of business we achieve or what type of business we are in, the people we know helped get us there, and they continue to help keep us there. I’m not talking about your secretary or assistant . . . I’m referring to our network.
A network is a group of people who we keep in touch with on some regular basis. These individuals may be peers, competitors, or associates in your industry. The bottom line is you have an existing relationship, one in which you can utilize. Bill Clinton said that if your entire network looks like you, then you don’t have a network; you have an ant hill!
We seem to have been taught the art of business card collecting quite well. But, do we really know what to do with all those contacts, and are we effectively working our network? Let’s look at chamber of commerce or network meetings. Too often, people attend these to take. They want YOUR business. They focus all their energies in handing out their business cards that they forget to actually get to know you. Be kind and accept cards, but keep an eye out for those who say, “So, what can I do for you?” “What is the perfect client for you so I may recognize them when I see them?” These are people to partner with. Exchange the same courtesy, and you have truly networked.
Throughout the years, your network list will change, and you can’t spend the same amount of energy on all people. You’ll learn to discern and determine what level of involvement you should have with each person. Ebb and flow. Don’t burn bridges, but understand that some people were for a season, and that is okay.
Some rules of thumb for building and strengthening your network so you can utilize it when necessary:
1. Always return calls promptly, regardless of position. You never know when Joe the janitor announces he has saved enough money to start his own nation-wide business, and he needs your services.
2. Never forget to thank people for their time. In an era of high-tech gadgets that have “freed us up” (ha) to tackle more projects and work, people are pressed for time. Send a note immediately following a meeting. Cards are still appreciated although Email is instant for our fast-paced society.
3. Follow up on details, requests, or assignments even though someone else might have volunteered to contact you. Show initiative and excitement.
4. Get to know your network. Are they married? Do they have children? Pets? Then, record this information so you can begin to build a deeper relationship with them.
5. Be transparent and vulnerable when appropriate. In order for them to trust you, they will want to know you better. Share some of your interests and hobbies. Any time you can find a common interest, you have just created a lasting bond.
6. Remember your network and let them know you care by sending out birthday E-cards, congratulation notes for promotions, or just a “thinking of you” cards when they might be under the weather.
7. Share insightful and informative articles with key contacts by forwarding a copy, expecting nothing in return.
8. Call periodically to update your network on what you are doing and find out how things are for them. Be in tune to challenges or needs they may have that you can assist them with, whether it is you or someone in your network who can help.
9. Keep your word. I can’t emphasize this enough. If you promised to do something, do it. If you said you would call, call. Although response standards have seemed to be lowered, give the level of service you would appreciate. The age old saying, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” still applies.
10. Under promise and over deliver. This has forever been my motto! Any time you are given the opportunity to present your services or submit a proposal to a contact, make sure you are realistic. Don’t short change yourself, but ensure that you will provide good service for fair pay and meet or exceed their needs.
11. Attend trade shows. These are the perfect opportunity to meet new people. But once you gather the business cards, make sure you do something with them other than play “Go Fish.” Enter your new contacts into your database soon after you acquire it. Type in any notes that will help jog your memory as to what was discussed.
12. Be sincere. No one likes a fake. You must earnestly desire to work with people and establish a network of individuals to whom you can associate with on a regular basis.
13. Send out a Thanksgiving mailer or Christmas card to your network. Tis the season to rejoice and thank God for all our gifts . . . our network being one.
If a relationship doesn’t bring you immediate financial or business results, don’t worry. You will someday reap a harvest of the lives you touched. At the end of the road when it is all said and done, people matter, not the deals. You will treasure the relationships, not the sales commission. Go, build networks, and prosper.
To help you better build your network, I encourage you to read Leveraging Your Communication Style: