How to build a great network

Cartoon of Elevator Pitch by Martin Shovel

Cartoon by @MartinShovel

Why you should network for life, not just for business.

Business owners are taught to deliver elevator pitches, work the room and distribute business cards. This is why so many people have come to hate business networking. It’s false, impersonal and often very boring.

That’s a shame because life, not just business, is made easier when you have a great network, when you know who to call, who to ask, and who to rely on.

Having a great network is powerful, useful and fun.

Imagine you need a great chef to come to your home to cook for a special celebration. Imagine that you have a really important presentation to deliver and you want to get some expert coaching. Imagine that your recently graduated child is looking for an internship. You can probably find what you need on-line, but imagine being able to ask your network for personal recommendations and introductions. How satisfying, and potentially much more powerful, would that be?

This is why we all need to network for life, not just for business.

Of course, to do that you need to be a real person, not just a business. A person has likes, dislikes, interests and values and it is these that will attract other people.

[pullquote]Do you know that the most looked at page on any website is the “about us” page? [/pullquote]People want to know WHO they’re doing business with, what you stand for and why they should choose you over your competitors. Nine times out of ten, people make a buying decision based on how much they like the person doing the selling.

Even on-line when they haven’t met you, a buyer’s decisions will be made on the story that you tell, and, most powerfully of all, on recommendations from their friends. They will seek out shared connections and ask about you.

Trying to get everyone to like you is doomed to failure. You’ll come across as so bland no-one will pay you any attention at all, so standing up for the things you believe in, being authentic, genuine and transparent are all pre-requisites for building a great network. You should be proud to repel the people who don’t share your values.

AudiencesThis is how we create trust.

Do you know that only 14% of customers trust brands but 78% of people trust their friends? (Source Oxford Research)

How do you find all these wonderful people you can trust?

It’s estimated that almost everyone can sustain a stable social relationship with about 150 people (Dunbar’s number).

If you are standing in a circle of 150 people, each one of those people is also standing in a circle of 150 people. That means that in just one step you potentially have 22,500  chances to find the exact person you need.

Treat every person as if they were standing in their own acre of diamonds.

It’s one thing to know someone, it’s another to get introduced WARMLY to the people you need.

How do you do that?

How do you make sure people remember you warmly and want to introduce you to their trusted friends?

I’ll tell you how. [pullquote]Charm will always score over an elevator pitch.[/pullquote]

  • Spend more time being interested in other people than you do trying to get them interested in you.
  • Do more listening than talking.
  • Ask good questions, but not just about their business.
  • Don’t let the first words out of your mouth be “What do you do?”
  • Do a little small talk, establish connections, use your social skills.

Just because you’re at a business event doesn’t mean you should ditch your manners.

Ask people how they found out about the event and that way you’ll find out who they know or which networks they’re connected to and then you’re on the way to establishing shared connections.

Demonstrating that you have something in common with someone else makes them more likely to like you and listen to you. Salespeople deliberately fake little similarities in order to create rapport and connect with their prospects. And it works.

If you don’t know what someone is talking about, ask them to explain and be a great listener.

If you’re the one doing the talking, remember the rules of not being boring. Answer questions succinctly and ask questions of your own. This is a getting to know you exercise, not a chance to tell your life story.

How to short-cut the process:

Combine on-line and off-line networking.

If you’re going to spend two hours at a networking event the maximum number of people you can have a real conversation with will be about a dozen.

Spending ten minutes on-line before the event, checking out and connecting with people who are going to be there, will short-cut and enhance the process, break the ice and give you an immediate point of connection. No need to ask the dreaded “what do you do?” question. You’ll already know and you’ll also know who they’re connected to and what you have in common so all barriers to having a meaningful conversation will be gone.

Similarly, spending ten minutes on-line after the event, not just connecting with, but introducing people you met who could be useful to each other, will establish you as someone worth knowing.

Share your network at every opportunity.

Actively make connections between people who can help each other – not for some bullshit “paying it forward” or “what goes around comes around” reason but just because you can, because you treat other people the way you’d like to be treated.

When you network on-line, talk to people as though they were in the same room as you. [pullquote]Don’t be a jerk.[/pullquote]

You’d never dream of bursting into a room and shouting “Hey, I build great websites. Come and buy one”, so don’t do it on-line. You can’t sell to people who neither want nor need what you’re selling so it’s essential to spend time finding out if you can help them with a problem before offering a solution. However, just because they don’t need what you’re selling doesn’t mean that you can’t connect them with someone from your network who might.

The rule about networking on-line is to be useful, interesting or entertaining.

In a similar way to physical networking, its being personal on-line that builds your network. No-one connects with a logo or a business account (unless they already know the person behind it which kind of defeats the object). All the same rules apply to both physical and on-line networking – make a good first impression, have a great smile, good eye contact, and share things that people can identify and connect with.

Your photo is crucial and will be the first and most powerful impression you make; sharing your love of basset hounds, wild camping or blues music gives people the chance to connect. Showing your values in the things that you share is a signal that you know what you stand for and allows people to decide if they want to join your tribe or not. [pullquote]Say hello to @MartinShovel who drew that great cartoon of the elevator pitch.[/pullquote]

Martin Shovel

Martin Shovel, Speechwriter, blogger on language and communication, cartoonist, animator, enemy of pseudoscience and humbug of all flavours!

Twitter is one of the best on-line networks for having conversations and connecting with people you don’t already know. Try it.

Use on-line networks as a telephone, not a megaphone and you’ll build a great network.

Here are four great reasons to network for life, not just for business:

  1. You’ll build an outstanding brand. By becoming a contact point and sharing your network you represent knowledge, opportunity, selflessness and intimacy. You are not just a smart contact; you are fun, interesting, and valuable.
  2. You’ll get access to people’s attention. A sure fire way to get heard above the clutter and information overload and be heard is when people know it will be to their advantage. Asking for ideas and opinions from your network and spreading those ideas produces advocates.
  3. You’ll harness the power of positive presumption. Your contacts will presume that your arguments hold water, that your recommendations are solid, and that your referrals are valuable. They’ll presume that you have their best interests at heart. This is a powerful advantage. Trust is an essential component in building meaningful relationships.
  4. You’ll receive exceptional feedback. When you offer people knowledge and contacts, they will be eager to give you helpful feedback. They’ll tell you which contacts were helpful and which weren’t. They’ll tell you which ideas worked out well and which didn’t. They’ll keep talking to you. And you’ll keep learning from them.  [pullquote] Click here to get free tips on how to Work Smart, Not Hard, make more profit and have more time to enjoy it [/pullquote]

“You can have anything you want in life, if you just help enough other people get what they want”. Zig Ziglar

The only way to build a great network is to share it. Keep giving it away and it will keep coming back to you, more powerful, more useful and more fun that you can imagine.

Contact me to get some insider tips on how to network – especially if you really don’t like networking!

2 replies
  1. Mary Blackhurst Hill
    Mary Blackhurst Hill says:

    Brilliant blog Ann. Love every word and it echoes what I am going to be sharing with a group of (very hunky and delicious) male models very shortly on Facebook. And (of course) this is what I need for my blog (sorry – newsletter) too, isn’t it! Must make date with you!!! Will be in touch this week. Promise.

    BTW – as one is writing in this comments box the font colour is a faint lilac grey – very hard to see. If you can change it easily I’d recommend it.

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