These days, networking is synonymous with a successful business. Networking is also the key to a good social life. No matter how big our office, how colourful our flyers, how powerful our computers or how many degrees we have, it is the quality of relationships we establish with ourselves, our family, our friends, our customers, our suppliers and, more than anything else, with people we don't know, that will determine our success in our personal life or in business.
At school, we got the idea that the more knowledge we gain, the more successful we'd be in life. This intellectual focus on life is still practiced in many places around the world. The emotional approach that has been around for many years and got a boost with Daniel Goleman's book, “Emotional intelligence,” proved that success has a better correlation to emotional abilities, rather then academic ones. Relationships with others and with ourselves are major parts of this concept.
Many people have asked us what we were doing that brought us to those wonderful places around the world. Every time we answer, we realise that it wasn't our profession, our education or our knowledge, but our attitude and the people we knew personally that were the key to this wonderful journey.
Working around the world in many projects and jobs, we realised that the only people that ever asked for our degrees were immigration officers, and they never appreciated the high achievement on our certificates. I got my first job after university through one of my professors. My second job was a referral by the manager who had just laid me off. I was taken to my third job, half way around the world, by my plant manager, who was moving there himself and needed people he could rely on in his own new job. My forth job was an opportunity that a friend from California picked up on the company's internal notice board. My fifth job, in Thailand, was a call from my manager from the third job, who had moved to Thailand himself and, again, needed people he could trust. My Sixth job was with the Singaporean consultancy I had hired to do the job in Thailand. I got it after becoming friends with the company's owner, who needed, well, someone he could talk to. Our moves to Australia, and then from Melbourne to Brisbane, were both possible as a result of personal relationships I had established with two guys from a recruitment company in Melbourne.
I think the most surprising part in this was that getting each job did not depend on my expertise, my computer skills or my ability to search well on the Net, but on the people I knew, the network I had developed, my “safety net.”
Some time ago, I found out that over 70% of the jobs are not even advertised and are filled by ” word of mouth,” so your chances of knowing about a new job depends on the people you know.
In life, our network is our safety net – the people we can contact to ask for a doctor, an accountant or where to find swimming lessons for the kids. Having moved so many times, I know that our ability to network saved us months of trial and error. Your network is your “Buddy”, the person you can call and ask questions and who refers you to the right person if he or she doesn't know the answers. Have you experienced this? New places, new jobs and new schools make this sort of people invaluable.
In Business, networking is the vehicle to spread ” word of mouth”. Networking is the primary source of referrals. In the business world, referrals are warm leads, almost ready to buy, as opposed to what you can get from cold-calling or direct mail.
Networking is inexpensive, sometimes even free, and it works because of two major psychological truths:
- People are afraid to do business with strangers.
- People prefer to do business with people they know or with people who were recommended by someone they know.
Therefore, the MORE people you know (i.e. the BIGGER your network), the more business you'll do.
It gets even better. Of everybody they know, people prefer to do business with the people they like and/or trust. Therefore, the more GOOD relationships you have (i.e. the STRONGER your network), the more business you'll do.
Granted, not every person is a social butterfly and not all of us have a big network. It may be encouraging to know that networking is a learned skill and persistence is the key. As Thomas Edison once said, “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.” Just take it one person at a time and one conversation at a time.
Some people don't want to mix business with social networking. They fear that trying to sell to their personal acquaintances will drive them away, because they're not interested in the product or service. Funny, isn't it? People get over 70% of their jobs through the people they know personally, but still want to separate. The trick here is NOT to sell directly while networking. While exchanging opinions, advice and stories, it may come up in conversation that you're keen to sell a product. In this situation, the partners to the conversation aren't put on the spot, and their desire to be helpful will get them thinking about potential buyers for your product. All you have to do is talk to them, then let them help and show your appreciation.
SELLING IS A RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN TWO ENTITIES EXCHANGING THINGS THEY VALUE. I give you something and you give me something in return. I give you my money and you give me a Pizza. I give you some of my time and you give me some of your money. Think about it – even volunteering is an exchange of service in return for a good feeling. Networking is about building long-lasting relationships of give-and-take. Good networking is ensuring that EVERYBODY WINS in the exchange.
National Sales Executive Association research shows that over 80% of sales are closed after a minimum of 5 contacts. This means that, in order to build a relationship with someone that's strong enough for them to buy from you, you need to spend time with them and socialise with them 5 or more times. so don't thought away your dish so fast.
But networking isn't only for business. Community events, going out to the park with some friends and their kids, having a car rally or getting together for coffee with friends are all good networking opportunities. By participating, you gain common experiences with other people, making everybody feel closer to one another. As a result, it becomes easier for everybody to support one another, because you can see a bit of yourself in the others and they can see a bit of themselves in you. Then it's almost like helping yourself, isn't it?
With our coaching clients, we put a lot of emphasis on relationships. Once the clients discover the power of relationships, they move forward with their personal life and their business much quicker. For all our clients, it is the safety network they establish around them, which determines their success in the coaching process. They become people magnets – friendly, helpful and caring. In the business environment, instead of working their guts out, there is a group of people working with them. Life starts to look like fun.
To walk the talk, my wife Ronit and I have sampled the networking events and groups in Brisbane. Some of the networking events happen occasionally, some groups meet once a month, some every other week and the most successful ones meet every week. All of them can show serious value to their members.
Unfortunately, the cost associated with these groups is not trivial. There's food, drinks, up-front and ongoing membership fees and parking. For a small business, especially a new small business, this can be a big consideration.
So, we established our own free networking club, which meets weekly. We've had wonderful meetings and plenty of ideas to help one another. For more information, please contact us.
Remember: whether you're at home, working for someone else or running you own business, you are a sales person. Make sure you know what you're selling, give to other people because “what goes around, comes around” and you never know if the next person you meet through someone in your network won't be you next big client or your partner in business or in life.