I recently interviewed David Rigby, managing director of Smart Coaching and Training who reminded me of the important part networking plays in successful business growth.
After the interview, I inevitably started to evaluate my own networking skills: ‘Fair to middling’ was the conclusion.
Not wishing to miss a learning opportunity, I decided to double down and see where I could improve.
If you’d like to join me, here are my top 5 things to improve.
1: Focus on Quality Over Quantity
I’m easily tempted to connect with interesting people I come across on LinkedIn and happily send out invitations to connect in a fairly cavalier manner. (Although I’m not the sort that goes sending out dozens of invitations per day).
But I realise that while it's important to connect with new people, it's even more important to build meaningful relationships with those you already know.
Networking is not a numbers game, and a large network of weak connections is less valuable than a smaller network of strong connections.
To avoid this mistake, I need to focus more on strengthening the relationships with my current contacts - to take the time to learn about their challenges and find ways to help them.
By building stronger relationships, you'll be more likely to receive support and opportunities in return.
2: Don’t Self-Promotional (Too Much)
Who isn’t irritated when someone they’ve just met starts hard-selling to them?
Fortunately, my introvert nature naturally stops me from committing this faux pas -
being too self-promotional.
While it's important to share information about your skills and experience, constantly ramming it down everyone’s throat isn’t good for anyone.
To avoid this mistake, focus on being a good listener. Ask questions and show a genuine interest in the people you meet.
By demonstrating that you care about their interests and needs, you'll be more likely to build strong relationships and receive support in return.
3: Follow Up
When I look through my contacts, I’m embarrassed to see there are some truly wonderful people I’ve not been in touch with for ages.
One mistake networkers make is failing to keep in contact with the people they meet. While it's easy to exchange business cards or connect on LinkedIn, failing to follow up can make it difficult to build meaningful relationships.
To avoid this mistake, make sure you keep in touch with the people you value. Even if it’s just a personalised message on their birthday and reiterating your interest in staying in touch.
By staying in touch, you'll demonstrate that you value the relationship and are committed to building a meaningful connection.
4: Giving Back
Fortunately, this was one of my best points.
Networking is a two-way street, and many networkers make the mistake of focussing solely on what they can gain from their connections.
Obviously, building strong relationships requires giving back as well.
To avoid this mistake, look for opportunities to help the people you meet. Offer to make introductions, share resources, or provide feedback on their projects.
By giving back, you'll build goodwill and demonstrate that you're invested in the relationship.
5: Be Prepared
Finally, an area I can definitely improve on -
I’m usually very uncomfortable at networking events. I’m convinced no one is interested in what I do and much more interested in everyone else.
So on the rare occasions I go to networking events, I go without a good plan. In fact, my usual plan is to leave as quickly as possible, but even I recognise there’s room for improvement.
So to avoid this mistake, always have a good plan for attending a networking opportunity.
And what is a good networking plan?
Well, I’m going to leave that for another blog but I’m sure you can think of a couple of things yourself in the meantime.
All the best and happy successful networking!