In this guest blog, Heather Townsend, author of the best-selling and award-winning ‘The FT Guide To Business Networking’ and ‘The Go-To Expert’, spills the beans on how to make sure you get a high level of return every time you invest in building or nurturing your network. In this article – written exclusively for us – Heather will shine a light on the 6 absolute essentials you need to network effectively.
Far too often people head out networking, whether online or face-to-face, with the purpose of needing to sell. Whether it is selling themselves to find a new job or selling their firm’s services. Remember that effective business networking is all about finding, building and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships. (This definition and what it means is examined in detail in the 1st chapter of ‘The FT Guide To Business Networking’. It’s not about how much business you win via your network. Although, if you have the right relationships in place, then ample business will flow from and via your network.
1: Know who you want to meet
If you don’t what dartboard you need to hit with your dart, is it any wonder that you normally fail to get even close to the dartboard? The same goes with your network and networking activities. If you don’t know whom you want to meet and why, then you may as well pack up and go home.
2: Have a networking strategy
Your networking strategy is the long term thinking you do to help you connect what you are doing with your network and your networking activities to your career and business related goals. Therefore, typically your networking strategy will set out:
• what you want to achieve as a result of your network and networking activities
• how you will achieve your goals as a result of your network and networking activities
• how you will meet and nurture the right relationships in your network
• in short, how you will network effectively
3: Make sure your online profile and footprint is current and up-to-date
One of the things which has changed in the last few years is the importance of your online footprint. Most people are far more likely to meet you now online before in the flesh. They will be influenced by the quality and credibility of your online profile BEFORE they decide to meet you. In fact, buyers of your services are likely to do 57-70% of their due diligence on-line before they will pick up the phone to talk to you.
4: Follow up, follow up, follow up
As I mentioned in the earlier point, it’s no longer about what happens in the room. If you want to network effectively, you need to know that it is about what happens outside of the room. Therefore, make sure for all your key contacts you have a relationship plan and diarised dates for next steps for all your relationship plans.
Far too often people do too much networking activity, for little notional return. To keep your networking fit for purpose, the aim is to do less rather than more. If you are going to reduce your networking activities by 10% what would you cut out? And why? If they are adding no value or very little return, why not cut them out now?
6: Get comfortable working the room
You are always going to need to be able to meet people and ‘work a room’. Whilst I’d like to think differently, this is the reality you will be faced with at conferences, internal firm events etc. Therefore, use our guide to confidently working the room (email required) to build your expertise and skill at making the best use of your time and meeting the right people at events.
What else would you add to this list?
Heather Townsend helps professionals become The Go-To Expert. Unusually for someone with an Engineering Degree from Oxford University, she accidently became an award-winning and best-selling business book author. Heather regularly blogs at How to Make Partner as well as sharing her best networking tips at joined up networking. Follow her on twitter for her networking and Go-To Expert tips.