It’s all about networking

It’s all about networking

George Ross, vice-president in the Trump Organisation said: “To be successful, you have to be able to relate to people; they have to be satisfied with your personality to be able to do business with you and to build a relationship with mutual trust.”
Life has taught us that to be successful in life or in business it’s not how much you know but how much you have managed to relate to other people. God has made us in such a way that we need to lean on each other. You can’t live like a hermit.

We have seen the most educated people dying as derelicts and we have also seen the less educated but the connected making it in life. Making connections and maintaining relationships with the people who support you throughout your career can be the key to success for most individuals.
You need to build a network of friends, colleagues, business associates whom you can call upon for help or as a supplier or a customer. We are often reminded that we should not burn bridges. Maintain your contacts with your friends, school mates and business associates; you don’t know when you will need them.
Mike Davidson once said: “It’s all about people. It’s about networking and being nice to people and not burning any bridges.”

Wherever you are, the advice is network, network and build relationships. We usually talk of helpers in life, they might come from your previous relationships at work, from a conference or from a business dinner.
The Oxford Dictionary defines a network as, “a group of people who exchange information, contacts, and experience for professional or social purposes.” So networking is a building of relationships as nicely explained by Diane Darling, an expert on the topic of networking and the founder and CEO of Effective Networking, Inc.
“The real definition of networking to me is building relationships before you need them.” The relationships you build now can usher you to greater heights in the future. In our journey in life, we have built a lot of contacts.

Some of these contacts we never get to really link them, but there are others whom we develop relationships with. Diane Darling recommends that you can break your network into five different subgroups as below:
Database: Everyone in your contacts that you’ve interfaced with (email, phone, speaking engagements, Twitter etc). This forms the largest group.
Network: Your friends and family network, alumni network, or business network. These are specific sub-groups of people you trust. These usually are not more than 200 contacts. They are in constant contact with you.
Inner Circle: Ideally about 50 people who can rotate annually and give you candid feedback about your career. These people can give you honest thoughts about you without fear of offending you.
Personal Board of Advisers (PBA): 5-6 individuals you are particularly close with and whom you go to for advice that not only touch on your career, but your whole you.
Friends, Family and Fools (FFF): The most obvious group, these are people who probably like you because they either have to, or they just do.
You need to interact with these subgroups to benefit from your network.
These days it’s very easy to build networks because of the digital age we are living in. There are a lot of social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and many others and also business networks like LinkedIn. One can use these to build networks. However the most trusted and tested way of building relationships is face to face networking.

The most obvious places you can network face-to-face is at “networking” events, conferences and many more social gatherings. At most conferences we tend to view these conferences as an opportunity to learn about new products, technologies or companies, but we tend to ignore that it’s also a great networking opportunity.
It’s important to spend some time before attending a conference to be able to research the speakers and attendees online and see those who you will be most interested in talking to or listening to. Make sure you build productive relationships. At the conference itself make sure you get business cards from those you have targeted to talk to and follow up with emails after the event to start a relationship.

Specialists in networking have said that effective networking is all about the people you know and meeting new people through other people. Your network is only as strong as the way you manage it. If you need to grow your business and be successful in life you need to build lasting relationships.
Isaac Newton once said, “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.”
You are not an island; you need others. As we network, we need to bear in mind the objective of networking, which is to help you make new contacts, build effective business relationships and build awareness of your business’ products and services.

Networking can take place anywhere, at business events, social gatherings, conferences or on the online social media forums. One needs to exploit these encounters to the fullest.
Since networking opportunities do appear everywhere, you need to be prepared for business networking at all times. Carry business cards and develop a succinct, brief introduction of yourself and your company that summarizes who you are and what you do.

This brief presentation is commonly referred to as an ‘elevator speech’ or ‘elevator pitch.’ If you were to meet a potentially important contact for the first time in an elevator at a conference and he/she asks you: “What do you do?” You have no more than 20 seconds or less between floors to explain, and to make such an impressive impact that the person asks for your contact details.
One other way you can establish networks is for you to attend some business events especially those that pertain to your industry or that pertains to other industries that you would like to network within your community. You need to consider such events as conferences, trade shows, seminars and chamber of commerce events.
When you attend these events, even if you go with a friend, don’t go into your corner with your friend but instead separate yourself from your friend or colleague.

Move around and mix with other participants and introduce yourself, but avoid spending too much time with any single person. But make sure each encounter is productive and beneficial to both of you.
For such an encounter to be beneficial you need be paying attention to what the other person is saying. Don’t be distracted by other people you would like to see. Make your “elevator pitch”, that is, introduce yourself and your company. It’s important to encourage the other person to talk as well.
You need to use listening skills. Give the other person your full focus until you have finished discussion then you move to your next contact.

The key to a fruitful networking encounter is to ask questions. By so doing, you can learn valuable information you can use to help build your business. Questions can range from what challenges your contact’s business or industry is facing and you can offer solutions.
Doing this will make them open up and they will begin to discuss their business and this gives you the opportunity to learn about potential partnership avenues you can approach in the future.

At these networking functions, ensure that you carry business cards and make sure you always exchange business cards with the people you meet. Take notes about the person giving you business cards so that you are able to contact them back. You need to take a few seconds to jot down a few points about your new contact so that this will trigger your memory about your discussion topics when you follow up later.
It is imperative that you always follow up on your new business contacts with a phone call, an email or a letter. Make sure that you do personalise your communication and refer to the event you met so that it’s a reminder to the other person.

You can use this opportunity to invite the person for lunch, a social meeting or a business meeting. The whole idea is to reconnect with previous contacts.
Networking is very important. Adam Small said, “NETWORKING is the single most powerful marketing tactic to accelerate and sustain success for any individual or organisation!” This statement is so true. People who have succeeded in life will bear witness to this statement.
Networking helps you to learn the dynamics within your industry much faster by relating with new established contacts. You can easily get connected to your community. Networking will open one door to new career opportunities and can also accelerate your professional development and above all can open up a customer base for your business.

Stewart Jakarasi is a business and financial strategist and a lecturer in business strategy, advanced performance management and entrepreneurship. He is the Managing Consultant of Shekina Consulting (Pty) Ltd and provides advisory and guidance on leadership, strategy and execution, corporate governance, preparation of business plans, tender documents and on how to build and sustain high-performing organisations.
For assistance in implementing some of the concepts discussed in these articles please contact him on the following contacts: sjakarasi@gmail.com, call on +266 58881062 or WhatsApp +266 62110062 .

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