Networking – How does it actually work?

Business Communication Duplicate model

Last week’s blog post gave an introduction to networking. Today, we’ll look at how it works in more detail.

When I first joined network groups it seemed as if I had become a member of a secret society. There was a whole new language to be learned ‘One to One’, ‘Sixty Seconds’, the ‘Power Groups’- what did all these phrases mean? It became evident over time that some members of the group understood this coded language, while others did not. Those that didn’t ‘get’ the language ended up leaving the groups, disappointed.

My experience of helping to run network groups led me to understand the importance of explaining to new members that it would take an adjustment period of a few weeks before they would understand the way that things worked and the language involved. That they should invest this time before deciding whether they wanted to join or not. This would give them the opportunity to understand the relationships that we were cultivating in the group and how we went about building those relationships and the structures that are in place to reinforce those relationships over time.

As I mentioned in the last blog post, there are two pillars upon which networking is built – Trust and Confidence. Everything that happens in and around a network group is focused on developing those two elements so that networks can deliver what the members want for themselves.

A regular occurrence at a network is meeting is the so-called ‘Sixty Seconds’. This is where a member has the opportunity to stand up and introduce themselves to the group. They explain who they are, what they actually do in their business, who they would like to meet and the kind of business referrals that they are hoping to receive. There are essentially three parts to a Sixty Seconds presentation – who you are, what you do and who you want to meet. You need to deliver this message clearly at the business networking event, but also listen carefully when others are giving their presentations as this tells you precisely who they are and why they’re here. This is the foundation upon which you can build a relationship with them. The message that you deliver in your Sixty Seconds needs to be repeated again and again. There are reasons for this that I will explore in later posts.

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A ‘one to one’ is another key part of the networking process. These meetings are arranged by two members of the network for a time outside of the normal network meeting. This gives you an opportunity to learn about them in a very specific way that allows you both to grow a symbiotic relationship. This time, invested in this two-party relationship gives you time to build trust, as you both show up with a desire to help the other person. Through these meetings, you can build a vivid picture of what their ideal referral looks like, sometimes this is a straight forward process, but other times it is a little more complex and requires time so that you can establish how precisely this new network colleague provides benefit to their clients, what it is that their clients value most about them. When you know this, it is so much easier to choose the right person to refer to them.

Power groups or synergy groups are businesses and individuals whose activities have a natural affinity with one another. For example, a mortgage intermediary will have a natural relationship with accountants, solicitors, and auctioneers. They can pass business to each other every day of the week because they operate within the same area without competing with each other. To do so, they have to build a trust relationship and have trust in each other both as people and as skilled workers. Think of those businesses which are within your own area but with whom you do not compete, these are the contacts who may be able to provide you with a steady flow of referrals.

Sometimes the value of networking does not manifest itself in terms of the business it generates for you, but in the value that you can deliver to the people who you do business with every day, by helping them to solve their problems. In doing so, you create value for your clients which has absolutely nothing to do with the product or service you sell. You become a valuable resource which the client cannot do without. You become indispensable.

Regardless of what industry you are in, the principles of networking remain the same. The focus should be on the people involved and on building solid relationships. At the end of the day, we all do business with people, preferably people we know, understand and trust. Networking is the best framework I know of to build this type of relationship.

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