Building Relationships through Networking

Do you network with a purpose? How much time do you invest in networking?

Are you a pit bull? Do you confidently work the room, politely breaking in another conversation to talk to this VIP that for months you desperately wanted to introduce yourself to?

I have to admit that I’m not a network pit bull..

Véronique Schyns and René Hooft Graafland and his farewell reception, Amsterdam, April 2015. Photo credits Sander Stoepker.
Véronique Schyns and René Hooft Graafland and his farewell reception, Amsterdam, April 2015.
Photo credits Sander Stoepker.

But I decided I want to be one.

Network coaches preach the mind-set, skill set and techniques mentioned in the New York Times bestseller, Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi. The advice in the book seems straightforward but in practice it’s all a little harder than it seems.

Networking is hard work and it all starts with knowing our goals. Without it we might have a good time during network events, but miss out on opportunities.

Related Is having goals really so important to be successful?

Why is networking important anyway?

As Mark H. McCormack puts it in “What they don’t teach you at Harvard Business School”: “Whether I’m selling or buying; whether I’m hiring or being hired; whether I’m negotiating a contract or responding to someone else’s demands, I want to know where the other person is coming from.“

At a recent networking event someone said because people tend to favour people whom they know, with whom they have a relationship, over others they don’t know. That’s why one needs to invest in relationships. And we need to build these relationships BEFORE we need them. I have noticed that this is a challenge in itself, because this requires that we need to make choices, we need to focus our attention on networks that help us reach our goals.

Social capital is our social network, the glue that we need. The OECD defines it as “networks together with shared norms, values and understandings that facilitate co-operation within or among groups. Think of networks of friends, family networks, networks of former colleagues, and so on.“

Over the years until recently I have been meeting a lot of people professionally and only in some of them – mainly people I actively work with – I really invested time to maintain the relationship. Especially if you are working in media relations, investor relations, Public Affairs, marketing and PR roles, you already spend a lot of your time in cultivating your internal and external working relationships. I noticed that this is how most people network. We think we don’t have time to invest in much more people outside our direct working relationships. We have a private life too. I know now that I was wrong. It’s all about maintaining AND growing your network. Prioritizing helps to make choices in a limited time schedule.

Get inspired

It might also help to find inspiration in people. I inspire myself by successful American leaders such as Dorie Clark, the author of Stand OutReinventing You, and Stand Out Networking.

I train myself with John Corcoran’s Relationship Value Funnel, “a framework and tool for understanding how you can be constantly taking relationships that are critical to your career or your business success and move these relationships to ever-higher levels of appreciation, connection and trust.” John is a former Writer in the Clinton White House. He knows how to connect with influencers and VIPs and how to use email to open doors you would think would be sealed shut.

Here are my three reminders before I go to any event: 

  1. Prepare yourself: ask for the attendee list and decide whom you would like to meet, have your elevator pitch ready and your interesting questions,
  1. Give out your business card, ask for a business card if you don’t get it spontaneously and write down details to remember people by,
  1. Execute your plan to meet certain people, listen to their stories and introduce yourself in such a way that people have a positive feeling about you.

Online networking is as important as offline networking. It pays off building relationships on social media platforms and online networking groups by following businesses and people and posting comments.

Let’s make networking a professional habit and part of our personal and business goals. We all need it.

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