Expert Author Susan Leigh
Relationships are the foundation of all the networking that we do with the people who are in our lives. Everyone networks, officially or unofficially. From mothers in playgrounds, or us, with our neighbours or our friends. We will often ask around to find if someone knows of a good hairdresser or a plumber when we are looking for a service provider, when either we do not have an existing contact or when we are looking to change our allegiance.
Let us look at effective ways to network and ultimately win the contacts that we want.
- Build relationships. The single most important part of networking is the building of relationships. A genuine interest in others and a desire to help them succeed is the most important building block of all. By establishing yourself in others' minds as a caring, loyal ally people will automatically think of you and refer you to their inner circle of contacts.
- Ask for what you want. Whether you are at a network meeting or are meeting potential leads be clear as to the type of work you are looking for. People may have only a vague notion of what you do and may well need it spelling out for them. Or some people may be mistaken in their idea of what you do, so be clear and ask for the leads and the specific type of work that you are available for.
- Have one-to-one meetings with other networkers. These are an opportunity to enhance the relationship and spend more in depth time listening and asking questions about them and explaining yourself more. Most referrals come from the contacts that your contacts know so it is worth spending time on these meetings over a cup of coffee. An hour is often long enough.
- Ask your existing customers if they know someone, anyone who might benefit from your goods or services. It sounds simple, but they may never have thought of passing your name on to others. It is worth asking the question. And, as existing customers they are clearly satisfied with what you are providing for them, so they are good ambassadors for you and your business.
- Keep on meeting. Your contacts need to be reminded of you. It is easy to let relationships slide, but keep meeting, even if it is just for coffee from time to time. And this meeting is an effective opportunity to update them on any new innovations or successes that you have had. It is better than an email because you can have a friendly chat and discuss it more naturally and in more detail as part of the conversation.
- Reciprocate. Successful relationships are about sharing, so remember your contacts. Even if you cannot pass work their way you may be able to tell them about an interesting conference, or a special offer or piece of news that may be of interest. It lets them know that you think of them and regard them as an important contact.
- Keep visible. Being high profile keeps you established and viable in peoples eyes. So using social media, attending meetings, being out and about is an important way to be at the forefront of peoples minds.
- Be friendly. This is an important point. Successful networking is all about getting to know, like and trust someone. Meeting people and then getting to know them well enough to recommend them to your inner circle of contacts, friends and family, is a major step to take. You risk damaging your own reputation if the lead turns out to be a bad one. So building a relationship enough to trust that someone will do a good job and is honourable and has integrity is an important requirement of effective networking.


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