If you are in business, you need to network; it’s that simple. Some are better at it than others, but we all need to seek continuous improvement of this critical skill. After 30 years in the wireless industry, I cannot stress enough how important networking is for your career. You may not feel the need to grow your network today, but trust me, at some point you will. With this in mind, here are seven habits of highly effective networkers:
1. Think win-win-win. Networking is best when you spread the love. Not only should you look for opportunities to help others, but you should also make use of your network and become a rainmaker by bringing people together to achieve more. Think about how you can maximize value for a new contact and your existing network. It’s human nature to want to do business with people you like. By maximizing the value you bring others, you can maximize this aspect of human nature.
2. Be prepared. Being prepared means you need to be open to networking and place yourself in the right venues. Be certain to bring enough business cards for the event and always have a few in your wallet no matter where you go. You should also have a well-rehearsed elevator pitch about how you and your organization add value. And be sure to get training in how to be a great listener.
3. Seek first to help. You will find that life is more fulfilling when you seek to help others first. Ask questions to show your interest and learn about the other person. Once you know what they are involved with you can share tips that may help them and also offer to introduce them to people in your network who may prove useful. By being of service to others, you greatly increase the chance of receiving help down the road.
4. Be proactive. Activity is always better than inactivity. Don’t wait until you get fired to network. I often stare in amazement when someone emails me who ignored my previous attempts to reach out, or someone I have not heard from in a decade. After shaking my head, I respond, but imagine how often these desperate gestures are ignored. Additionally, when networking, be proactive, but don’t act like a vulture seeking its prey. Start today and reach out. Keep the previous point in mind and see what you can to do help others.
5. Don’t ignore your current network. Always allocate time to maintain relationships within your current network. Remember, quality always beats quantity. Set time aside each month to work through part of your list of contacts and see how people are doing and how you can help them. As your network grows, your frequency of contact may be reduced, but be sure to maintain these relationships.
6. Follow up. How often have you met someone who said they would follow up with an email or phone call when they returned home, only to never hear from them again? Be sure you take the time to follow up after each trade show, conference, or event. Your company spent a lot of money to send you there. Strive for a great return on that investment for you and your company by building your network via follow-up.
Highly effective networkers always follow through and complete the connection. Be sure to send a follow-up note or a useful article or set up a lunch meeting. Speaking of lunch, your goal should be to never eat alone. Every lunch should be viewed as a networking opportunity. And don’t overlook written thank-you cards and other notes. In our modern world this touch of class still stands out.
7. Sharpen the saw. The more knowledge and skills you amass, the more you can help the people in your network achieve success. The more you help your network, the more it will help you. It’s no accident that CEOs read significantly more than the average person. Read, stay up to date on technology and seek continuing education. When you sharpen the saw, you prepare yourself to achieve greatness.
Often, successful business people in our industry are the ones who view networking as a mission and are highly effective at it. Effective and purpose-driven networking leads to increased business, increased profits, and perhaps even a more purpose-driven life.
Andy Singer is president of Singer Executive Development. The company offers training courses in executive management, product management and microwave systems. An electrical engineer with an MBA, Singer is a former president of RadioWaves. He writes “Down to Business,” a syndicated newspaper column. His email address is email@example.com.