“It is not what you know that matters, it is whom you know”. This is a common maxim in today’s competitive labour market, and networking effectively is one of the strongest and most influential tools required for personal and/or professional advancement. It can help secure your dream job, get new businesses, attain a promotion or connect with the main players in your industry. Knowing the right people in the right places with the right level of power and influence can get you to places you may not stand a chance to reach otherwise. Here are my top five recommendations to help you build sustainable business relationships:
Researching is a great starting point. If you are well grounded on a subject matter of mutual interest to someone or say, a gathering you are hoping to meet people, then, conversation becomes easy. The Internet allows you access to a great amount of information on just about anything. Use it. Whether you have names or not, you can ask questions from mutual friends. Take time to learn more about the people you will be meeting, it does not have to be an exhaustive list of things to note, just enough to start a great conversation. It is very unimpressive to be ignorant on everything that could have paved way for a good conversation.
Make A Lasting Impression
Your appearance precedes your voice. First impressions are created based on how you look and how you comport yourself at first glance. If you want to be perceived as a professional, you have to dress and act the part. Build a good brand that you will be proud to introduce to people. Be professional. Make effort to be mentally prepared at all times and be you. It is pointless to make a great impression, if you cannot sustain it.
If people do not see you, they do not notice you, and if they do not notice you, it is impossible to network and start building important relationships with you. It is imperative that you go to the right places, take on leadership roles and responsibilities within your community or industry-specific groups and connect with people. Dr. Ivan Misner, one of the world’s leading experts in business networking and referral marketing proposed a process on visibility, credibility and profitability called the VCP process for successful relationship marketing. He explained that, Visibility means they have noticed you, they know who you are and what you do.Credibility means they trust you, they know who you are and what you do, and they know that you’re good at it. Profitability means they trust you enough and they’re willing to do business with you.
With visibility and a good reputation, you will most definitely attract referrals. Have a realistic plan when you attend the next event, make a commitment to yourself to connect with “new” people, say two, three or five. Do not spend the entire time chatting up with old acquaintances; get out of your comfort zone.
Seize The Moment
Don’t rely on other people to remember and reach out to you. Feel free to make the first move on a potential contact. Great relationships are built unceremoniously. Sometimes you meet people at informal places like social events, gyms and the like. That person you met on Saturday evening relaxing and playing a friendly game of Ludo, you may have to go through series of protocols and security to meet on Monday morning. Always be prepared to seize that moment.
Stay in Touch
Once you cross the hurdle of making the first connection, it is only a step in the right direction. Building and maintaining a solid relationship is another. A major blunder people make in building relationships is not keeping in touch with the contacts they make. They pile up complimentary cards as though they are medals. With the level of technology we have today and its plenty alternatives, there is no excuse not to stay in touch. You need to establish a connection that is sustainable. When you are unable to connect with someone on a level beyond business, it is tougher to ask him or her for favors or expect referrals from them. Once you get it right in the first instance, the chances of you being remembered are much higher and if you happen to lose touch at any point in time, make efforts to restore the relationship.
Now you must be thinking, “What if I am shy?”
Networking can be quite an intimidating attempt for people who are shy, but it gets easier with practice. Although networking may come across as quick, it goes beyond exchanging handshakes and business cards; benefits can take much longer to develop but with the ultimate goal to build sustainable relationships for your advancement in mind, it is worth it. I am a work in progress at it. Do it right and eventually the phone will ring and who knows the kind of opportunity that will be on the line.
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