Judith is a speaker, writer and leadership consultant, specialising in Troublesome Talent™. She can be contacted by emailing: [email protected]
What is networking?
I think networking is not all about business; in fact it’s the social interactions that really make networking work. People want to help those that they like, which is why networking solely for business isn’t as successful as networking to establish relationships for mutual benefit, even when you currently don’t need anything.
I believe if you maintain this approach then your connections will want to do the same for you, especially when you take the time to really get to know them.
Networking is about advocacy and finding a route market, rather than seeing the individual you are talking to as your market. This distinction, I believe is really what networking is all about, because if you adopt this way of thinking you are more likely to get the results from your networking that you want.
Interestingly enough, random connections with others rather than focused networking targeting specific people can be far more likely to achieve your networking goals.
I guess this is because you never know just who people know – this randomness will lead you to the market you are looking for. You do not often get business from the person you are connecting with but if your business proposition is clear then they will remember you and pass your details on to others at the appropriate time. This is especially true if you have built a good relationship with them.
I think understanding the philosophy of ‘givers gain’ makes networking easier and more successful. This means for me, spending time genuinely trying to help the people you connect with, without thought about what that individual can give back to you.
Givers gain is about realising you will gain more if you give more to others. This is an unselfish act, I try to find out as much as I can do about the people that I’m connecting with, so that I can understand their needs and help them fulfill them. I aim to connect the person I’m networking with to someone who will be useful to them. I think givers gain is one of the things that good networkers believe in. People ‘buy people’ after all.
An example is when people are buying cars. They may have chosen a car that they want and go to a showroom with the expectation of buying the car they have already chosen. When they arrive they meet a salesman that they dislike and do not trust. In those circumstances, customers often buy the car somewhere else, perhaps because they didn’t want to give the commission to someone that they didn’t gel with or trust.
You see, networking is also an extension of your personal brand. It’s about who you are, what you do and what you want to be known for. It’s also about how you convey your professionalism to others and how you manage trust and reputation. What I mean by this is the way you behave and the referrals that you provide to others, is a reflection on yourself.
Networking is a series of story based conversations, which build relationships and make it easy for others to understand you and your business.
Where and when do you do it?
I guess answering this depends on what you see networking as. If you see networking as meeting interesting people in a random way and doing whatever you can to help them on their journey, then I do this all the time!
It’s hard to see networking as a singular activity.I network on and offline, in much the same way. I try to establish relationships with others, and have as many one to ones as possible. Networking online is a great way for making the first connection and deepening connections once made.
One to ones is where the real value added connections are made though, I definitely prefer doing this face to face. At times however, this isn’t possible so conducting one to ones by phone is a great alternative.
Although I maintain profiles and connect on a few online networking sites, I prefer by far networking online via Ecademy. Ecademy is great for enabling deeper connections to be made to others and to build trusted relationships; this is particularly true within the BlackStar community. BlackStar is a group committed to quality networking and building advocates within a trusted community.
I also run the Soft Selling for Leaders Club on Ecademy to bring together knowledge and expertise in leadership. This helps build awareness about leadership, and has the pleasant side effect of building my reputation. I also give freely by sharing my knowledge in other clubs and forums on Ecademy.
This helps people that I haven’t met to get to know me and what I stand for.
I also, regularly attend networking meetings and meet people in Central London, as it is a convenient place to meet for most people.
What specifically do you do?
I try to find ways to establish a connection – a rapport with the other person.
I like to know who they are and what they believe in. I ask questions to elicit what it is that they really need. My questions are about clarity, I concentrate on helping the other person articulate what their expertise is, and how they would like to deliver it.
My intention is to help them with the delivery if possible, find out what value I can add to them, and to connect them to others.When I introduce myself I am clear what my message is and how to articulate this. This clarity helps me achieve better results. I concentrate in finding out about the other person and do not tell people about myself until asked.
If you were going to teach me about it, what would you ask me to do?
It’s key to decide on what your networking purpose is and to know specifically how you can help or what you have to offer others.I’d also suggest you focus on the ‘other’ person. If you genuinely have their interest at heart they will be drawn to you. Remember what their interests are and key facts, like what projects they are working on and where their interests lie. There is nothing worse in meeting someone the second time and discovering that you can’t remember them!
A definite networking faux pas!I also suggest that you don’t use ‘elevator pitches’, unless you can use them in a way that is interesting or engaging. People often switch off to ones that sound too factual or over rehearsed. I believe that telling stories about your work is a much better way of putting your message across. People can connect with your essential message better.
It’s important to actively listen to the other person, not to interrupt, be genuinely interested and not to pitch them on your product straight after saying hello!There is etiquette to networking – although some people do not realise it!I help people who are not confident in networking, by providing practical advice and tips and working on the root cause of their discomfort.
How did you learn to network?
Before I began working for myself, my career as a senior HR Manager involved meeting new people and putting them at ease quickly, and finding solutions to their problems. I had to become comfortable training new groups of people and representing the companies I worked for at functions as well as surviving the inevitable office politics!I guess I was ‘networking’ without realising it!
I’ve learned to network for business by just getting out there, meeting people and helping them out, where I can. I have also learnt a great deal from other good networkers such as Richard White (Soft Selling), William Buist (Social networking), Thomas Power (networking for life) and other experts within the BlackStar community.
I learnt that networking is about asking better questions and defining your business proposition in a way that you will be remembered. This includes helping others articulate theirs and connecting them to the right people.
What do you believe about yourself when you network?
I believe that I can help people achieve their goals and I have unique skills that will be valuable to the people that I meet.
I believe that networking is fun.
What do you believe about the people you network with?
That the people I network with, will be interesting people and I will be able to offer some assistance to them. Even if that is just connecting them to someone else.
People always have a positive intention for any behaviour, and you should always look for this intention when you are communicating with them. That way everyone wins.
I believe that ‘givers gain’ is a great philosophy to have when networking.
Do you have a ‘mission’ or ‘vision’ when you network?
My mission is to help others achieve what they need and understand their core talents and express them in a way that will make them more successful.
It’s been a year since we spoke about networking – how has your networking changed and evolved?My networking is more targeted in an unfocused way. What I mean by this is that my message is more targeted but my networking is more random. I’m not targeting certain groups of people (although I do look out for particular groups) because I firmly believe I will achieve my end goal by the law of attraction.
In very simple terms, the law of attraction states that you will attract what you are looking for.
I don’t have an expectation of business because I’m looking for advocacy rather than customers.
I also understand the importance of deepening the connections that I have and ensuring that I know who’s in my network. This enables me to provide more qualified contacts, because I know what the people in my network is looking for, what problems they face, and the goals that they want to achieve.
This type of knowledge about your network is very important, and when I meet new people, I listen out to what they say, so that I can match them to a contact if it’s appropriate.
I also ask better questions than I used to, which means I provide better value. My questions are focused on finding out what the other person really needs and how I can deliver that to them.
I know that competition shrinks the market and collaboration grows it. I’ve realised that there never is a need for competition, because everyone has a niche area. I seek out people others see as my competition so that we can find ways to work together to maximise the market. I never thought hat would be a result of networking.
And as a last question – how do you think big companies can benefit from networking?Big companies can extend their brand identity by networking and improving their supplier, customer and employee’s experience of them.
It’s a more personal way of them identifying who they are and who they want to be remembered for, in a way that mass marketing cannot achieve.
I think that if big companies taught their employees to network internally and externally then they would see better results. Once employees network effectively internally they enhance their knowledge of the company and facilitate better communication between departments and become more productive. They are also more likely to be promoted as they become more influential and noticeable. When they network externally, they tend to be more proud of the company and can share great stories of the company and what it has achieved.
This can be quite powerful and is likely to enhance the company’s standings to others, and add to the marketing messages already distributed. It can also have the effect of making recruitment easier for the company as others become impressed of the personal messages that they hear, and want to become part of the company.
Judith owns Dynamic Transitions Ltd™ which focuses on developing leadership talent. A particular specialty of the business is working with Troublesome Talent™.
Judith can be contacted by emailing: [email protected]
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