Networking – it’s all about networking these days, isn’t it?
It can be soul-destroying scrolling through social media channels and seeing just how many followers some people have gained while you’re still struggling with 20.
And this is the real problem – is that Boveda smoking guy, with the cigar cutter on his aircraft carrier sized desk, one of your network – or is he just an acquaintance?
How do you distinguish between quality and quantity? Here are some ideas and tips that might help you sort your lead sources into a valuable network:
- Go to business meetings.
We all have the same problem – where to find the top 20% of our clients who’ll give us the 80% of our business – those golden clients we love dealing with and look forward to each contact with them.
Sure, you can go online and trawl through thousands of cold calling scripts that are put together for you – but nothing beats a real live chat over a coffee or a wine in a convivial atmosphere, does it?
Often, business groups like the Rotary Club or Chamber of Commerce organise or sponsor these events – and a guest speaker or two gives a presentation on interesting and important topical subjects; like changes in legislation or a new sales idea for promoting your air compressor service or taxi firm locally.
If you are adept at public speaking, you can even volunteer to present something at these meetings – organisers are always looking for fresh and knowledgeable ideas and talks for their memberships.
- Join LinkedIn
LinkedIn is known as the “business Facebook.”
Here you’ll find tens of thousands of contacts on a site dedicated to business – you’ll find people who deal with air compressor parts mingling with biochemical company startup founders and aircraft manufacturers – all commenting on each other’s posts.
The first thing to do is to update your LinkedIn profile. Although this might be an obvious first step, it is surprising the number of people who do not even regularly review their details.
Make sure you have good, professional, current headshot as your avatar – This will be one detail that people scrutinise closely, and it is worth taking extra care of your appearance and your demeanour, in this particular shot, to make sure it is relatable.
Along with this, it’s vital that you do some homework and understand how LinkedIn works. There are plenty of YouTube videos and instructional PDFs out there looking at ways to maximise the impact of your LinkedIn details.
Joining groups within your specialty, or sphere of influence, is great for honing in on the expertise in your field. It is important to join in and take part in the discussions and the group events and presentations. This will get your name, company, and interests In front of a wide range of like-minded entrepreneurs.
Managing your invites and personalising connection requests are two skills you also need to hone if you want to minimise the time spent on LinkedIn for maximum gain.
Like all social media (although, somehow, LinkedIn never really gets lumped in with the usual social media gang) being active is the difference between getting those vital connections going and becoming a “digital wallflower.”
- Putting the feelers out
Jobs don’t tend to be advertised these days – they place internally – or from recommendations of people that have worked with others before, or “know” somebody.
Networking means you will be open to less competition – the field will be smaller without hundreds of applicants applying for the position.
From your point of view, a good network will allow you to gain access to C-suite level executives and CEOs that you may not otherwise can meet. It can help you meet those that have IT skills. These skills can include how to navigate through Veeam backups or Microsoft 365 backups.
Often, it is possible to discuss employment possibilities and ideas in informal surroundings rather than a pressurised formal interview setting.
By constantly mixing and letting it be known that you are open to opportunities and discussions, word will soon get round if something looks like it would be to the mutual benefit of both you and your prospective employer or business partner.
- Make yourself a contact list
A contact list can be great for organising your networking so that it is consistent and effective.
You can easily divide your list into different categories. Some people may be on several lists at the same time – especially if you are in a small town setting or an extremely specialised field or industry.
Social contacts can comprise relatives, friends, acquaintances, neighbours, members of the church or community club or sports group.
Educational contacts can be Teachers, sorority members, fraternity members, alumni, class members, professors and school administrators and members of Boards of Governors.
Community contacts include Members of Parliament and other holders of public office, business and community leaders, industry leaders, professional and trade association members, Chambers of Commerce and business and enterprise organisations.
Business contacts comprise bankers, accountants, stock and business brokers, insurance professionals, headhunters, attorneys, Co-workers, past employers, trade and professional association members.
- Mix it up
Don’t look on landing that dream job as the end of your networking journey – make it the beginning.
Make a point of getting in touch with all the people who helped to gain the position and thank them and keep them up-to-date with how you’re doing. If they are in the same position, offer to help them in any way you can and introduce them to people within your circle that you feel may be useful to them.
Sending an article, podcast, or video that may interest a contact is great for keeping In touch with no agenda attached. Following this up with a friendly phone call, email, or Slack message, asking what they thought of it helps to keep the networking wheels oiled.
Networking well is never something that is wasted. The theory of the “6° of separation” applies throughout your business and professional life, as well as your social one.
Get your networking right and you know you will always be able to “put the word out,” for you, or on behalf of someone else, if you need to