It’s true. Everybody is doing it. At least, successful people are doing it. “It” is Networking. Successful people network for a variety of reasons.
The ability to create and sustain strong Relationships will translate into successful business opportunities! Or, should I say, being able to create and sustain strong Reciprocal Relationships will translate into successful business opportunities!
According to the Wall Street Journal, 94% of new job finders cited networking as their primary mode of job search. Networking is also used to build relationships with potential and existing clients and vendors. In a recent poll, readers said their personal connections are the primary factor that most often leads to getting ahead in an organization.
However, there is one important element that is crucial to your networking efforts. Many people do not know how to create reciprocal relationships or how to ask for help appropriately. I have a business colleague who I met networking. We were introduced last year, and I was amazed at her ability to create strong reciprocal relationships. Here is the proven technique:
- Create Genuine Rapport – The goal of small talk is to break the ice and create genuine rapport. This is the foundation of relationship building. Start with a brief introduction and handshake. Follow with positive comments or questions about your immediate surroundings, such as “Have you heard this speaker before”? Invite them to another event, either social or professional. For instance, my friend invited me to attend a Saturday seminar that she knew I would enjoy.
- Offer To Assist – In many networking situations, people are simply selfish. They are quick to talk about themselves and ask for favors, but they are not quick to offer their assistance. When someone asks “how may I assist you”, it makes a very positive impression! My friend was very active with LinkedIn, and I was just getting started. She not only offered to assist me, but offered to come to my office and assist me on my computer! I could not believe her gracious offer, and it was obvious she expected nothing in return. She shot to the top of my list of people I wanted to know and assist. Although, her offer to assist was extraordinary, any offer of assistance will have a similar impact.
- Listen – Spend 80% of your time listening and 20% talking. As Dale Carnegie wrote, “become genuinely interested in the other person, and encourage them to talk about themselves”. My friend is exceptional in this category. She knows how to ask good questions, and she really hears the answer. We follow everything from each other’s vacation plans, to our seminar events.
- Keep In Touch – Many people only call a networking contact when they need something. Instead, stay in touch with all your contacts by planning periodic communications. Whether the proper level of communication is over coffee, by phone, by email, or even by text, it is important to let your contacts know that you are thinking about them, and to thereby prompt any updates they want to share with you.
- Email Requested Favors – In our fast-paced world, sometimes it is appropriate to ask someone a question or favor via email. If you select this method, first start by including their name. This shows you have taken the time to personalize your email. If you are not someone they readily know, help the reader remember who you are and where they met you. Be specific, and get to the point of your request quickly. Say, “thank you”! I am often asked for input by people I do not know, and this requires time to respond. Often, I never hear back from the person about how the situation turned out after they took my advice! People simply want to know that their efforts were worthwhile. Show genuine appreciation for any favors done for you, and you will be on the road to a reciprocal relationship!