It’s ironic that we live in the connected economy and so many business professionals find it hard to connect. There’s almost an illusion to all the technology.
Ultimately, we are all human and we value connection and people that make us happy, make us more money and help us towards our goals.
Networking is a means towards building the relationships towards those ends. But all too often, the label put on a group of people that have obligated themselves to each other’s businesses monopolizes the meaning of the word.
The reality is that if you are organized and consistent in addition to being someone who looks out for others, then networking can be something you naturally do.
So consider a more informal way of building your own network in lieu of the formality of groups. It starts with how you see people and care for them.
You don’t have to tell anyone you’re networking. You can have your own secret society.
Building Your Own Network
So the first thing you need to do is figure out who can refer you business. Yes, we all know that referrals are the easiest and highest form of qualified leads. That’s because you are borrowing trust from someone who has already built it with your hopeful customer.
There are people that can do this well and that are talking to your customers. There are also many people that can never refer leads to you. These people are either not great candidates or are not even connecting with people in your market.
After you have this list, think about this approach and process:
1. Organize you Referrers. Either categorize them in your contacts list or use a sorting mechanism like a tag within your CRM system. Limit this to 10 people that you can see talking about you to the people they meet.
2. Think about each Referrer. Study each of those 10 people and ask yourself what would be valuable to them. Think deeply. What are they pursuing? What do they care about? Do they value their children? Their health?
3. Create value. Often this is bringing a referral for their business. Facilitate the referring just as you would want to be referred. Modeling this makes it a talking piece. You can also specifically approach the value you thought about in number 2.
4. Set up a get together. If you provided value first, then get coffee or lunch together. It’s a time to talk with them about what you would like to see and what you will commit to doing to bring value to them. Be explicit about what you are looking for and how you would like to reciprocate. Make it a deal. “If I can continue to bring you customers, would you be committed to help me find clients for my services as well?”
4. Nurture Your Network. Work hard to set up follow up touchpoints and tasks for your ten people. This is your own informal network which you are formally bringing value to. If your agreements and expectations are clear, then your part should produce reciprocation. If you have weak agreements, then you may need to revisit step 4.
This is a system and a process which requires vigilance. You have to work hard at reviewing your relationships and bringing appropriate value.
Over time, you can review each relationship and track how many referrals you are getting from each. If you feel like it can improve, meet again and review.
If you feel like things will not get better, then replace one of those sacred spots and commit to bringing value to someone else.
Networking is about finding those key relationships of working reciprocity. Not everyone will get it. Find the ones that do and make that an engine you can always count on for your own sales efforts.