Give and You Shall Receive
Many people are not really comfortable developing new business relationships - or personal ones, for that matter. Yet this skill - networking - is critical to business success, whether you do it internally, or amongst your peers in a trade association or professional group. It increases your value, and can open the door to a promotion or other new opportunities.
Unfortunately, many see networking as the collection of business cards at trade shows, or "small talk" at cocktail receptions.
Let's face it: there is a limit to how many business cards you can store in your desk drawer, or how many conversations you can have about the weather. When it comes to follow-up, there is usually more guilt than action.
The end-goal of networking is to connect, and then ultimately benefit from, your relationships. Here are a few concrete suggestions on how to do this:
1) When you meet a person for the first time, discover what they are interested in, both professionally and personally. Spend more time listening than talking.
2) Like a bank account, you can't expect to make a withdrawal without first making a deposit. Few will help you (let alone remember you) if you don't help them first. Think of networking as the act of helping others succeed.
3) Each day as you read the newspaper and business press, cut out articles that match your networking list's interests, then send the clippings out. It can be as simple as writing "Pat, thought this would be of interest - Randall" on a business card and attaching it to the clipping. They'll appreciate it, and you will be someone who adds value to their day - not just takes value away.
4) To strengthen the relationship further, meet with them from time to time, either to learn more about what they're doing, or to ask for advice.
If you must talk about the weather, go ahead; just make sure that you leave knowing more about them than the name on their card. Networking is far more productive, and easier, if you realize that your success comes from giving, not taking.
This week's action item: Find at least one article that would be of interest to someone on your network list, and send it to them. If you can't commit to doing this every day, then calendarize two days weekly to make a "deposit" into your network bank.
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Copyright © 2006 Knowledge to Action Press and Randall Craig. All rights reserved. Publication date: May 9, 2006