In a recent AMA video, a question came up regarding the importance of networking and how to be most effective at it. While networking is important, it certainly has lost its meaning due to the rise of social media. More people today believe that networking is about connecting on all social platforms and then asking each other for help when the need comes, which is probably why many people are no longer successful getting the most out of their network.
Back in the day when I was in banking, I remember going to Chamber of Commerce events and BNI groups local to my community. I went 2 times to each and then stopped going all together, due to the fact that those in-person networking opportunities are no different than what they have morphed to online. It comes down to everyone needing something, which is often the reason why they don’t end up getting anything from networking, in person or online.
So how do you effectively network online or offline?
Here are 3 small things you can do to network better and ensure you always have a meaningful and powerful network to call your own.
Don’t network with everyone
People tend to think that the more people you know, then the better off you are. While there is value in knowing all the right people, not all belong in your network.
A network is like a mini family that can become a resource from one another. A network is not a referral for profit type of business. While there is a possibility of money being made as a result of a well oiled network, the goal is to be a resource to one another and therefore not everyone will share this sentiment.
Allow people in your network who will bring value to the network, including other people in it, rather than just yourself. Make sure they hold the same values and beliefs in terms of how they do business, and what their long term goals are (many people don’t work well serving others ).
Finally, ensure you, yourself, and the rest of the group can be a resource to the new person you wish to network with. Try not to allow two individuals with the exact same skill or value to join your inner circle, as having both will show that you devalue the original person who you networked with to begin with.
Build “real” relationships
Don’t focus your early networking on getting or giving business to one another. Spend the first interactions on getting to know new individuals you wish to network with. Understand their stories, their skills, their weaknesses but more importantly understand who they are as a person and if that’s a fit for the long term.
Many people including those with very strong business based networks don’t realize that their network consists only of businesses holding it together, meaning the smallest business disagreement could results in a completely cut connection.
The best way to ensure you have a strong partnership is to make sure it goes above and beyond the scope of a need, but rather mutual respect. Get to know one another and build relationships based on people, not businesses.
Accountability and honesty
One of the major pitfalls of networking is that most networks are full of empty promises and people talking more than they are willing to do. So the best way to overcome this obstacle is not by limiting who enters your network, or how well you get to know them, but also how much you hold each other accountable while being honest.
Often people don’t like to say NO to people who refer them business or whom they have a business relationship with, which is why over promising and under delivering occurs often in networks. Being able to say NO, explain yourself, set correct expectations is a great step to prolonging your network’s ability to flourish.
Even better is your ability to hold yourself and others in your network accountable to doing what they said they would do. If someone promised you a referral by Friday, or perhaps said they would put you in touch with a relevant lead on Tuesday, ensure that very same action happens by that very same day and ensure clear and open communication occurs as well when that process gets broken.
Don’t just ignore the bullshitters of the group, as it is likely they shouldn’t be in the group.
Networking is about creating value for each other, and just like any other relationship or friendship, it is about the “give” and “take” which must be respected for a healthy network to remain just that.