Networking is a process and not a transaction. However, in organising our approach, it is sometimes convenient to segment various aspects into past, present and future.
- Past: we need to identify the groups of people who have played a significant role in our lives. This involves digging into our past and looking for commonalty. ‘Mindmaps’ or charts are a convenient way of depicting this information.
- Present: What are we doing to sustain relationships, to keep our contacts alive? There are many benefits of sustaining positive relationships. Two include:
o Having an advantage over our competitors – becoming the ‘person of choice’ or the ‘firm of choice’.
o An ‘absence of malice’. When things go wrong – and we all know that even with the most careful planning, there will be ‘hiccups’, if we are functioning within positive relationships, our partners are more likely to give us the ‘benefit of the doubt’. There would be an ‘absence of malice’. Compare this with the same situation where there is no positive relationship – our customer may consider the ‘hiccup’ a poor reflection on our performance.
Under ‘present’ we also need to assess how efficiently we are capturing and organising the contact details. And how effective are our systems for keeping information ‘up to date’?
- Future: How are we going to ‘expand’ our networks in relevant ways so that we continue to build stronger networks? There are two main aspects to this: o What are we doing to strengthen existing relationships? o How are we going to add meaningful contacts to our networks? This could involve working out where the weak areas in our contacts are, planning how we are going to fill the gaps or joining forces with like-minded people or those who have a common interest.
Let’s expand further on that idea: We join organisations for a range of reasons. But so often it is the friendship and support that bind us together and cement our membership.
For example, I joined the New South Wales Chapter of NSAA (National Speakers Association of Australia) so that during my visits to Australia (two or three times a year) I could go to meetings, learn and network. The benefits have been enormous. In addition to expose to ideas and the experience of international speakers, trainers and coaches, I have made wonderful friends. In my latest newsletter, I mention the annual convention which Gary Eckstein and I attended in April 2010. Here are some more photos:
Lindsay Adams, a Past National President of NSAA and the current President of the International Federation for Professional Speakers (IFFPS). Lindsay is the National Director of the Referral Institute in Australia and New Zealand.
Rachel Green, CSP is a fellow networker, trainer and speaker from Perth, Western Australia.
Networking is great fun! However, the benefits will not be great unless we approach networking with the right attitude, ‘what can I do for you’ (and most certainly not ‘what can you do for me’.) Most of us are tired of people who are like leeches – wanting to get whatever they can from us. That type of relationship is parasitic. We need to function symbiotically, help each other, work for the ‘common good’.
So, my message to you is clear: Network by seeing how you can be of assistance to others and you will benefit enormously.