In this networked age, the importance of proper networking skills has never been felt more. Many studies have repeatedly stressed the positive correlation between the entrepreneur’s success and his networking skills. Strong contacts can not only provide business opportunities, but enable entrepreneurs to find mentors, co-founders and potential recruits.
Given paramount importance of networking, many entrepreneurs have devoted significant attention to networking activities, primarily to originate new deals and to market their products. But for many, the real purpose of networking remains flawed which has resulted in their failure to achieve desired results.
The following rules will provide some perspectives on effective networking:
Pay Forward Attitude: This remains the cornerstone for all relationships. The goal for networking should always be to help others and not seek immediate returns. Relationships are like bank accounts, as you need to make initial deposits before yielding returns. Effective networkers sincerely seek to help in whatever ways possible to elevate the contact into a good friend.
Focus on Quality: In various networking sessions, entrepreneurs tend to focus more on collecting more business cards rather than deepening key relationships. As the Pareto principle goes, 20% of contacts yield 80% of the deals. Preparing a network hit list is a smart move before attending networking events or conferences.
Have a clear Goal in Mind: Entrepreneurs must identify potential business contacts based on his organizational vision. A B2B focused organization must identify sector focus and try establishing network with potential clients and partners. A shift in organizational strategy should also give way to change in networking strategy. More focused networking strategy will bring about immediate results in the form of higher revenue and more opportunities for personal growth.
Do not forget to follow up: A meeting with a potential network must immediately be followed by a follow up email. People hardly close a deal in the first meeting; rather, the immediate objective is securing a second meeting. The follow up mail should be sent within 24-48 hours requesting time for the meeting. The contact goes stale if no immediate contacts are made by entrepreneurs within the first week.
Do Research before meeting someone: Before meeting someone, it is imperative to conduct individual research. Main areas of interest include the person’s interests, achievements and expertise. A simple google or LinkedIn search can suffice to provide adequate information about the contact. Talking with other contact can also help to gauge the main talking points of the meeting. Entrepreneurs should ideally look for the avenues where he has a common ground with the contact which will help deepen relationship and trust.
Maintain a database: Proficient networkers tend to have a list of contacts who can more in handy for furthering relationship. At times, a well-managed list of contacts can be more valuable than a portfolio of stocks. Effectively leveraging contacts can help in building the business and exploring new opportunities. Database can be retained in excel (google drive) format or in Microsoft outlook as well which will ensure easy access of contact information.
Ping the contacts: All relationships need to be nurtured in order to keep them alive. Entrepreneurs must periodically contact all networks and, if possible, host small events to maintain relationship. Exchange of periodic gifts in the form of notepad, calendar etc. can be an effective medium for retaining mindshare. Social media and email can also be effective to be in touch.
At the end of the day, the ultimate goal of networking is more about giving mean to your life and making it more enjoyable. Creating lifelong and rewarding relationships will add quality to the quantity of your time. Business deals are inevitable to follow but are essentially a byproduct of the networking process.
Zahedul Amin is the Co-founder and Director of Finance at LightCastle Partners, an emerging market specialized business planning and intelligence firm. Earlier, he worked as the Assistant Vice President, Risk Analysis Unit, in HSBC. He completed his E-MBA at the Institute of Business Administration (IBA), University of Dhaka, and completed his undergraduate degree from the same institute. He can be reached at [email protected], Twitter: @amin_zahed