If you want to be more successful when you network for business, follow the golden rules. These help you get the most of your Networking experiences and opportunities. Used regularly, they will save you time and help you find, maintain, and grow the best networks to meet your goals. They do take discipline.
Communication is primary.
Be aware of how you communicate and the message you communicate to your network and potential new additions to your network. If you’re not a good communicator, become one. It starts with listening and paying attention to the feedback you get. Be sure to ask for that feedback and use it.
There are plenty of books on better listening and communication to help you. Your network will give you the most help if you ask them to.
Manners are important.
If you call someone, ask them if this is a convenient time to talk. If not, ask what time would work better. Ask if they would prefer to discuss this through email or if an email with your request would help them prepare to talk to you. Be understanding if they can’t do something immediately. If it’s a true emergency, be sure to tell them. They may be able to refer you to someone else if they can’t help now.
Don’t text at times that you know would be an interruption. Don’t expect or complain if you don’t get an answer right away. How do you know what times would be bad? Ask!
Tell people how you followed up on their networking efforts on your behalf and what the results were.
Always remember to thank members of your network for “giving” you what you need. Ask them what you can do in return.
Always carry cards.
Always carry your cards and some from different people in your network. Choose those with the most relevance to the group with whom you will be interacting.
Business cards still are relevant. There are some new software programs like Busivid which are other options. Most of these however are more for prospecting than for networking.
Your goal should be to get cards; not just to give them. One measure of networking success is by the number of people who are willing to share their information and really mean it when they say “Call me!”
Don’t wait until the last minute to build a network and establish rapport and understanding with those in the network. A good network takes time, effort, and patience. Don’t expect miracles in a minute.
Always network for others.
Be sure to “give” as well as “take”. Listen as well as speak and try to remember and act on or pass on what you hear or see.
Each of your networks must “get” back from you as much as each one “gives” you. What you “get” and what you “give” don’t need to be the same but they should be relatively equal.
Yes, there are going to be people in your networks who are score-keepers and will talk negatively about those who are “takers”. Make sure they don’t talk about you that way!
Don’t over work your network.
If it’s a formal networking group or organization, a club for example, make sure you use it as it was intended and that you don’t just go to one person or one group all the time.
If it’s an informal group or if it’s just one person, make sure you return the favor of their help, too. Don’t forget about those score-keepers. They’re here, too.
Keep on the lookout for good additions to your network.
When you find them, be sure to introduce them to others in your network. This will strengthen the ties between you and them and between you and others in your network as well as give that new person a head start.
Don’t try to network with too many people however. That won’t work. it’s not a race or contest. You don’t want quantity; you do want quality.
Pass along “red flag” warnings.
Tell appropriate members of your networks about “red flags”. This is negative information about places, people, companies or products. Warning someone about something that can damage their reputation, image, or trust can be a tremendous gift. Just make sure it’s not gossip and is as accurate and objective as possible.
Only network with people you like and trust.
Network with those you really know. Otherwise you won’t feel comfortable in the necessary “give” and “take” that is the heart of Networking. If they demonstrate that you can’t trust them, don’t include them in your network anymore. Make sure that your network can always trust you, too.
Use your network first if you want something.
If someone has a product or service you want or need, contact them first. You don’t have to buy from them, but you should consider them.If someone asks you for a referral, start with your network — but only those you trust and are relevant.If you don’t have a direct referral, you can still ask someone in your networks for a suggestion. That helps them look good to people in their other networks. Networking is about “giving” back. Don’t just be a “taker” or you will find yourself alone.
Coming: How to Network with Friends and Convention Networking Rules.