Networking is key to accomplishing your goals whether you’re in a corporate environment or a budding entrepreneur. You need to meet people. Unfortunately, most of the advice currently available is pretty weak. If I get told to “smile more” or “have a firm handshake” one more time, I might lose it.
I was at a conference recently and here are some tips I picked up. (Thanks Rick Von Feldt – https://twitter.com/hrfuturist)
1) Form Your Core Structure
Many people think networking just means meeting more and more people. I don’t know about you, but to me that just sounds exhausting! Is it even possible to develop meaningful relationships with so many people? I love meeting people, but a more strategic approach to your network will serve you better than quantity.
This is where the idea of your Core Structure comes in.
- 1 or 2 Sponsors
- 5 Mentors
- 25 Allies
- 100 Contributors
- >500 Acquaintances
The goal isn’t to know as many people as possible, the goal is to fill your top 150 roles with the best people possible. Here are the roles you need to fill.
Sponsor (1 or 2) – A sponsor is somebody who is well above you and takes an active role in helping you along. They will provide you with more than advice and guidance, they will take action to help you along.
Mentor (5) – A good mentor is somebody who is a few steps ahead of you in wherever you’re headed. They can give you guidance and help talk you through decisions you’re struggling with. When you find a really good mentor who advocates for you and takes care of your interests, they become a sponsor.
Allies (25) – These are people who are interested in what you’re doing. They know what you’re up to and you know what they’re up to. These are your really good friends and peers.
Contributors (100) – Contributors are similar to Allies, but you don’t stay in as close of contact with them. You know the general changes that are taking place in their lives, but you aren’t involved in the day-to-day.
Acquaintances (many) – This is everybody else. Friends, family, friends of friends, coworkers, old classmates. These are people who know who you are, but you don’t necessarily keep in very close contact. You may like their pictures on facebook occasionally, but you don’t typically talk much.
2) Fill The Roles With Stellar Candidates
Now that you know what your core structure should look like. It is time to start filling the roles. I suggest being deliberate about it. Make a spreadsheet. Figure out who you currently know that reasonably fits those roles.
It can be difficult to fill the Sponsor, Mentors and even some Ally roles. Leave them blank if you don’t have anybody that really fits the bill. If you have some blanks or even if your network seems a little on the weak side, that means you have some work to do and some people to meet.
Fill your network with people who have a network greater than your own. They will help open doors for you when you need help. You don’t want your network to be a small, closed system where everybody knows the same people. Ideally, you would like them to be able to introduce you to the right person when you have a serious need. That’s the whole point.
Actively seek these well-networked people. Fill your core structure with as many as you can find.
3) Communicate With Your Network
Here are some simple communication guidelines. Again, this will work a lot better if you’re deliberate about it. Whether you use a simple CRM or even a spreadsheet, make sure you communicate.
Do a 72-hour followup. Contact people you just met 72 hours after meeting them. It could be a thank-you card or maybe even just a “it was nice to meet you” email.
Also do a 14-day followup.
You should be contacting your network’s top 150 people at least every 90 days. Many of these will happen naturally as you interact with people socially and via work, but make sure you’re doing this with people you don’t see regularly. If you regularly interact with about 60 people, then you should be sending one email each day to keep in touch with the other 90.
Again, be deliberate. Track it.
4) Provide Value
This is really fundamental. Provide the people in your network with value. Always try to give so you don’t have to feel guilty when you need something.
Here are some example ways to provide value:
- Introduce them to somebody else in your network.
- Learn about what they’re working on and give them some feedback.
- Ask if they need anything. Often a facebook post or retweet can be very beneficial to their business.
- Send them information that directly pertains to what they’re trying to do. It doesn’t have to be anything big. I have a friend who curates a music newsletter every week and when I hear a new song that fits his style, I send it to him. That’s it. Sending a link to a music video. It doesn’t have to be complicated.
Also, don’t forget to think about ways that people could help YOU. If your network is good, they’ll ask.
I hope you find these suggestions to be helpful! A strong network is important. I’m refocusing on mine and am implementing everything I just shared in a spreadsheet.
Remember, you become the 5 people you spend the most time with. Choose them wisely.
Do you have any tips or strategies that YOU use for networking? Share them in the comments!