How many times have you seen an entrepreneur (maybe even yourself) go to a networking event, meet a bunch of good people, then leave and never talk to them again? Too often, right? And it’s not because he doesn’t like them or doesn’t ever want to see them again but because he’s a busy, busy person with so much going on that he can’t even remember what he had for breakfast, let alone reconnect with individuals he just met.
It’s a shame because such new contacts are where future business is born. Don’t be misled: it’s not the number of contacts you make that’s important; it’s the ones you turn into lasting relationships. There’s quite a difference. So here’s everything you need to know to get you moving in the right direction.
What is Professional Networking?
Professional Networking is the act of meeting or connecting a group of people who may in some way contribute to your career or business-related happenings.
Professional networking is not limited to a transaction, but it is a relationship. It works best when you’re striving to make connections that lead to professional contacts. It does not work well when you’re attending a meeting. A professional network only pays off when the relationship formed is genuine.
According to Russ Alan Prince, a consultant who studies ultra-wealthy and select professionals has identified top two strategic networking that self-made super rich approach. One type of network is expansive and the other- more powerful network – is nodal, also known as street smart networking.
It’s the type of networking when you have large number of connections or people you know. These individuals prove to be beneficial. They help you in building business, provide you with information and resources. But in this type of network, your bond is not strong. It is useful but limited. It is the most common type of professional network individual develop.
In contrast to expansive networking, nodal networking consists of connections that are highly targeted deep relationships. Such networking requires time, efforts, consistency & trust.
Such networking is not done overnight. It starts with meeting a person for the first time, then maybe again under different circumstances. Depending on how strong a connection is made, it has the potential to blossom into full blown business relationship where you would consider yourself friends. It is during this time where you really trust this person and vice versa.
This type of networking enables the self-made super rich to maximise their time and efforts as they connect for profits directly and indirectly. So the person in this type of network is motivated to leverage the friendship formed to help you with information and resources.
According to John Bowen, founder of AESNation and author of Becoming Seriously Wealthy, “The self-made super-rich will masterfully develop and leverage both expansive and nodal networks. They will have many casual professional relationships as well as a small number of exceptionally strong ones. Also, their nodal network will be strategically designed to deliver extraordinary insights and opportunities.”
How to build quality Professional Networks?
Quality network does not happen overnight. It requires investment of time, efforts, resources and persistence. the process to build quality professional network involves following three distinct phases:
Collectively it is called the VCP process.
In the first phase of growing a relationship, you and another individual become aware of each other, i.e. visible to each other. In business terms, a potential connection becomes aware about you and your business through advertising or public relations efforts or perhaps through someone you both know. The phase involves observing each other, forming association based on shared interest. Visibility phases is important to create recognition and awareness. The greater a person is visible, the more s(he) will be exposed to greater opportunities.
The second phase of networking is credibility. It is the quality of being reliable, worthy of confidence. Credibility grows when appointments are kept, promises are acted upon, fats are verified, and services are rendered. Credibility is determined via third party. Therefore, the more credible you are in eye of your network, the more your worth will be.
The third phase is profitability. The mature relationship, whether business or personal, can be defined in terms of its profitability. Is it mutually rewarding? Do both partners gain satisfaction from it? Does it maintain itself by providing benefits to both? If it doesn’t profit both partners to keep it going, it probably will not endure.
Five Types of Professional Networking Organisations
Casual Contact Network
Casual contact networks are general business groups that allow many people from various overlapping professions. There are no restrictions on the number of people represented in any profession. These groups usually meet monthly and often hold mixers where everyone mingles informally. Casual contact networks may hold other meetings to listen to guest speakers present on important business topics or to discuss issues concerning legislation, community affairs, or local business programs.
Community Service Club
Unlike the more business-oriented groups discussed previously, the service group is not set up primarily for referral networking; its activities are focused on service to the community. However, as a practitioner of the Givers Gain philosophy, the master networker is a natural fit. In the course of giving time and effort to civic causes, you form lasting relationships that broaden and deepen your personal and business networks.
Association members tend to be from one specific type of industry, such as banking, architecture, personnel, accounting, or health. The primary purpose of a professional association is to exchange information and ideas. Your goal in tapping into such networks is to join groups that contain your potential clients or target markets. A simple procedure for targeting key groups is to ask your best clients or customers which groups they belong to. This will give you an immediate list of at least three to five, and probably as many as 10 to 12, groups from which to choose.
Your best customers retain membership in the associations that offer the greatest value or for which there is some key strategic or competitive advantage. Similarly, the prospects you wish to target may, in many ways, operate like your best customers and have many of the same needs.
Here are examples of professional associations:
- American Society of Personnel Administrators
- Certified Life Underwriters Association
- National Association of Professional Organizers
- American Bar Association
- American Medical Association
- National Speakers Association
Social Media Network
From a business perspective, the ideal use for social media is to build your brand and your credibility with the people you are connected to; it’s about providing value for your connections and followers. It is important to offer them useful information balanced with a little personal insight, and—whether you’re talking about face-to-face networking or online networking—credibility and relationship building is still critical to the process.
Sit down and map out a weekly schedule that outlines specific days and times that you will spend developing your social media strategy. Figure out what’s realistic and what makes sense for your company and go from there.
For example, if you use Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter for your social media marketing, then put it down on a schedule. Maybe Facebook posts go out Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, while LinkedIn happens Wednesday and Friday mornings. And Twitter might be something you use for just when you see good stuff out there on social media and you want to quickly distribute it.
The point is to leverage your time! Be sure to utilize the various tools currently available that are designed specifically to save you time in your social media efforts. For example, sites like SmarterQueue (https://smarterqueue.com), Hootsuite (https://hootsuite.com), and Buffer (https://buffer.com) are designed to send your social media updates to multiple social networking sites, including Twitter and Facebook, with one click.
Choose the Networks that are Best for You
If you’re serious about developing business by referral, there is no quick fix: you must meet people in a planned and structured way. Which groups should you join? Don’t let chance decide where you’re going to spend your time and effort. Remember, the key is to diversify your activity. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket; one type of business organization won’t serve all of your needs. Consciously select a well-rounded mix of organizations, with no two of the same type. If you have associates, partners, or employees, consider their participation when deciding which groups each of you will target.