Growing your network of contacts may sound like an elementary task, especially if you’re in the sales world as I am, but like anything else of value, building your network is an investment of sorts. Time is the most precious commodity in the universe and building a solid network that you can easily refer to and build upon should not be an all-encompassing chore. But to build your network the right way, it is not something that can be done overnight.
Although the definition of network" has changed since the word was introduced to the English language in 1560 (according to the Oxford English Dictionary), the primary meaning remains the same today.…”a group or system of interconnected people or things”.
Networking the right way does take some time but also requires patience which is why we call it an investment. The results of networking can be life altering, but more importantly, being a poor networker can most certainly affect your business in a negative capacity.
In this article, I’m going to share part of my personal network building strategy and some of the tools that I have found to be effective for me. Although all of these tips may not be as effective for you, my hope is that you’ll be able to utilize at least a few of these methods to streamline and supplement your own network building process. Here are a few tips that I have found to be very effective.
The most common method most everyone hears or reads about is to create a list of all of the people you know, have worked with, are friends with or have had some type of relationship with in the past. Although this is a great place to start, from my experience the majority of the people I know outside of the sales world, would not be suitable clients. Or in other words, they’re likely not going to be buying what I’m selling. We call this “relevant targeting”. I’ve found the most effective ways to build my business network is to target people in the industry I’m dealing with. This seems like a fairly common sense type of action, but I’ve been surprised over the years to see other professionals in my field go after anyone and everyone as long as they have a pulse. For me, this is counter-productive and a waste of time, effort and energy. As opposed to a shotgun strategy where you try to hit everyone, a more filtered approach is the way to go. Know Your audience!
Granted depending on your schedule, you may not always be able to donate your time but you may be shocked by how many entrepreneurs and business leaders work volunteer or community service into their lives. This laid back environment will allow for a casual and more personable conversation that will not only serve as a great icebreaker, but also build trust in your character. Websites such as Createthegood.org and VolunteerMatch.org are growing platforms with an amazing amount of networking opportunities. Normally local communities will have their own volunteering bulletin board websites which can easily be found on Google. Many times you can find events within your industry that will have a need for volunteers. These particular types of opportunities would fall under the “relevant targeting” category and should lead to solid contacts.
Engage your existing followers
If you’re reading this article, odds are you’re already on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram, etc. Many of these followers should also be somewhat tied into your industry. This worked extremely well for me when I landed my current position. I was pleasantly surprised how receptive most of my friends/followers on social media were to hearing what I have to say. If they are already following you, that usually opens the door to at the very least a conversation which is the most important step in the process. From there, you can work your magic and educate them on what you are selling and why they need it. It doesn’t hurt to comment on industry forums and write your own blog. Make sure you read articles in newspapers and trade magazines so that you can share and tweet relevant information to keep your followers up to date within the industry you’re targeting. Be seen and heard!
Look at non-competitive products, services or companies that are reaching out to similar audiences and see if there are ways you can collaborate through shared outreach efforts such as newsletters, mailings (online and offline) or co-branding opportunities. Try to include some type of call to action where they can reach out to you in some capacity. Giving away freebies is a great way to collect contact info and should not cost you an arm and a leg. If you’re selling computers, don’t give away a laptop but perhaps a free mouse or even laptop case with your branding on it will give potential contacts a reason to send you their info. At every level, people love free stuff and you can use this to your advantage. This method should put you in front of new faces who share the same interests and goals that you do. Be creative!
My last bit of advice would be to make sure and follow up on your commitments and promises. You can spend all the time and energy in the world to grow your network, but if you don’t follow up once the connection is established, your network can quickly fizzle out. Try sending a personalized thank you note. As human beings, a personal touch still tends to go a long way in developing and maintaining a relationship, especially in the sales industry where this is not the norm in today’s frantic world. Building your network is one thing, but keeping and maintaining it is just as crucial.
Of course, a great place to start growing your network is right here. Follow us on Twitter @JMCbrands or send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and be an active part of my network—I’d love to be part of yours!