When it comes to networking, many business owners and entrepreneurs still seem to feel that more is better, and that simply collecting lots of business cards or LinkedIn contacts really means something. But that’s a superficial view of networking.
“If you really want relationships that matter, stop aimlessly collecting business cards,” said Andrew Sobel, co-author along with Jerold Panas of “Power Relationships.” “There’s a big difference between ‘networking’ and actually building a network of deep, loyal relationships.”
Unless you’re a nightclub promoter, calling, texting, and ‘linking in’ with dozens of people every day isn’t going to help you build business. Neither is doing favors just so that people will “owe you.” In this age of social media, we’ve come to confuse quantity for quality. But “super networkers,” as Sobel calls then, understand that all contacts are not equal in terms of business impact.
Here are suggestions:
• Identify your “critical few” and cultivate them. Make a list – carefully. Then create a tailored stay-in-touch plan for them. Your critical few should include clients or customers, prospects, colleagues, personal mentors, collaborators – firms or individuals you may trade leads with and work with to serve a client. Plan to personally connect two or three times a year with each of them. Think of things you can do for them that will add value.
• Build your network before you need it. You have to invest in other people before you ask them for anything. Otherwise, you’ll be seen as a freeloader. Cultivate your relationships over time. Then, when you do need help, you’ll find the people around you are more eager to provide it.
• Stretch yourself by building relationships with people different from you. Research shows that our natural tendency is to choose others to work with who are similar to us. But the most creative teams, the teams that solve problems the fastest, are eclectic and combine people with very different backgrounds and personalities.