People have relied on whom they know for information or referrals since the beginning of time. We have depended on this exchange of shared resources, time immemorial. Networking is defined by Webster’s Unabridged Encyclopedia Dictionary as “the act or process of informally sharing information or support, especially among members of a professional group.” “Networking is a reciprocal process, and exchange of ideas, leads, and suggestions that support both our professional and our personal lives.” There is also a spirit of sharing that transcends the information shared. The best networkers reflect that spirit with a genuine joy in their “giving.” We all have networks we were born into, went to school with, live in neighborhoods and work with. Savvy networkers understand that networking is a process of communication which works for those who appreciate the path and process as well as the destination. One cannot stress enough just how important it is to develop and finely hone follow-up skills. There is no process of networking, no sharing of information, resource nor referral that occurs without it.
HERE ARE SOME SECRETS TO SAVVY NETWORKING:
1. Follow-up is a basic tenet of life.
Behaviors and actions support words; the lack of either subverts them. We must T.A.P. into our networks, being Timely and Appropriately Persistent in our follow-up or we will fail to establish and increase our base of contacts. That is networking in a nutshell!
People who have resources are resourceful. People, who are willing to open their Rolodex or contact management program, pick up a phone, call on their contacts, and ask for help and solutions, and who offer leads, information, and ideas, are perceived as powerful and smart. The closest thing to knowing something is to know where and how to find it.
2. Acknowledge “gifts” given to you as well as leads, ideas, advice and time.
Powerful people have linkages that are plentiful, diverse, and expansive – and are able to get things done because of those linkages. President Clinton’s superb and savvy networking skills cannot be denied. He was elected because of his network! What are the special networking skills of the masters:
o They meet people for the first time and look them right in the eye and makes them feel comfortable.
o Ask a question and listen intently and let you know they are talking to you.
o Stay in contact and are very loyal to their friends. If something crosses their desks that might be of interest, they will send it on.
o Use laughter and are equally at ease with both men and women.
o Embrace people, not just the ‘right’ people.
o Makes the connection, even if they just share a glance.
o Exude confidence, yet appeal to the most average person.
But, how do we become a person with whom people want to talk, to work, to collaborate or to spend personal or professional time and energy? We must become savvy people who are aware of the unwritten rules for this process called networking. One must understand the politics of markers and owing chits.
3. Networking is an enrichment program, not an entitlement program. Too many people feel that under the “guise of networking” they are to be given leads, referrals and information that they have not earned. We earn these leads by establishing communication and rapport.
4. We must reciprocate.
5. Treat people with respect, courtesy, integrity, truth and honor. People will do business with people they know, like and trust. People enjoy giving leads to others who have a track record and with whom there is a connection! We establish these connections by meeting and mingling and communicating.
6. Make it is easy to work you. Patricia Fripp has shared with us that one of the ways to “get ahead of the crowd” is to do that.
7. Just say “NO” to no-win networking. Our networks are too precious to include people who aren’t appropriate, courteous nor competent.
8. Stay in touch with people when we need nothing from them.
9. Have fun and be of good humor, which is NEVER at the expense of others.
10. Pay attention and incorporate the rules – written and unwritten.
If we understand that savvy networkers are soft-sell and establish the relationship in networks, we will be shining stars of the business community, as well as in our personal endeavors. Savvy networkers share a skill with successful leaders: they are aware of their impact on others, and behave accordingly. And, they are aware of the “Favorbank”: its deposits, withdrawals and accrued interest.
Rather than view “networking” as a time waster, savvy networkers see it as an investment, which may pay off for a “designated receiver. “Someone who had been of immense help to me in the early stages of my business asked me if I could help her daughter who had graduated from law school. It was my great pleasure to return my friend’s assistance and support by helping her daughter. And, it relieved her of having to appear as a nagging parent.
By the same token, we get to call in favors to help our friends, colleagues, relatives and cronies. Networking has been the way of the world. We just gave it a new term. It used to be called . . . helping!
Susan RoAne is a keynote speaker and best-selling author who has “worked” trade shows, conventions, planes and pools, and has taught thousands of people to do the same. Her latest book, the updated and fully-revised best-seller, How To Work A Room, as well as The Secrets of Savvy Networking and What Do I Say Next?, are available in local and on-line bookstores. Each book is also available as an audio book.