My Three Cents


Making Networking Work!

 

I’m always a little shocked when I hear someone say (often with a note of pride): “I hate networking.”

In my experience, most people chose to avoid networking.  Why? Because it requires courage, discipline, curiosity and an engaging personality. How many people come by those gifts naturally?

To tweak an old adage, there are more people with brains than guts. Many find it scary to initiate conversation in a cocktail party setting with someone they don’t know. With focus and determination, however, these skills can be learned—and then applied—through hard work.  Those who become good at networking can become incontrovertible rainmakers!

Few people want to step out or stand out. They’d rather talk to the people they know.  I have no stats to prove this, but it is an observation of many years in business.  This is despite the fact that building and maintaining a network is one of the key ways that senior executives and their performance and value are judged by boards and top management.

You can’t have a network without being an effective communicator.  You not only have to open the door with who you are, learn about the person you are meeting and where he or she works and is from, what they think of the conference or seminar you are attending—but you need to make a presence with your engaging small talk or knowledge-based “big” talk.

According to a recent survey among business execs, most say their greatest strength in networking is developing quality relationships. That is fortunate because people do business with people they like.  Another survey said that 90% of people believe it is better to build a relationship first and then focus on business.

There is no single way to build those relationships that can result in new business. Socializing in places where your targets socialize.  Writing blogs or articles directed at your targets. Organizing a speaking engagement before the right audience. Using LinkedIn to connect to the right people.  Direct mailing or emailing a relevant story.  Or all of the above.

The principle is that to network with consequence you must have a system, as it takes months and sometimes years to make relationships flower. So there must be some regularity to your contact.  Did you ever hear of the “five times rule”?  You have to touch someone with five different contacts before he or she becomes a serious client prospect.

You might think you don’t have the right personality or physical type to be a rainmaker or even to network effectively.  Wrong.  Surveys have shown that effective networkers come in all stripes: fat, skinny, tall, short, ugly, handsome, young or old!  So there are no excuses not to engage in this all important activity. Networking is seminal to getting ahead in your career. Personality is key but persistence is the name of the game.

You have to roll the dice many times to win a few, and if you roll enough times, your chances of winning are high!

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