If I speak to any accountant or lawyer, they always tell me (often slightly guiltily) that they know they should be networking and spending more time on their network. However, clients, chargeable hours targets and a high case load just seems to get in the way. They then ask me (often expecting me to have a magic wand) how I can motivate them to prioritise their networking activities.
Here is my definitive guide to helping you find the time for your network:
1) Understand your reason why
Most of us go networking without a good understanding of ‘why’. Typically, most people have a fairly vague understanding of why. For example – ‘my network will help me find my next job’ or ‘I will find new business via my network’. There is little or no thought to the ‘how’ you are going to use your network or networking activities to help you achieve your goals via your network. Consequently, you end up wasting lots of time going to the wrong events, chatting to the wrong people on twitter and not having the coffees, lunches, drinks and phone calls with people who could really help you progress your career or business. Disheartening isn’t it?
2) Find and know who your George is
On my workshops and in my presentations on networking I always talk about why I want to meet George Clooney. Yes, it’s very tongue-in-cheek – but it also gets me a smile and a laugh from delegates. George represents to me someone who can help me achieve my goals in the short and medium term. In my experience most networkers don’t know who their equivalent of George is. Consequently, they spend a large amount of time looking to meet the wrong people and then get disheartened because they never seem to get the results they need from their network. So, before you do anything else, identify who or what your George is. Now, look through your network – who should you be focusing your precious networking time on?
3) Remember networking is more than ‘working the room’
Many people when I ask them what is networking talk to me about how they hate going to events and meeting strangers. This is only one way to network – and often not a very effective method, because all you do is end up collecting business cards. Ideally, if you have a fairly established network, you want to be spending 80% of your time maintaining and building the relationships within your existing network and 20% of your time on adding people into your network.
4) Have a relationship action plan in place for your key contacts and clients
Often when time is busy it’s not the networking events which people cut down on, it’s the all important follow up with existing contacts. My recommendation is to identify your top ten contacts and write a relationship action plan for each of them. Now, get out your diary (yes, your diary) and translate those plans across into your calendar.
5) Spend 15 mins a day or 1 hour a week on nurturing your existing network
We all live busy professional lives, but we all can spend 15 mins a day or 1 hour a week nurturing our network. Put this time in your diary and just do it.
6) Don’t forget on-line networking
Many experienced networkers still discount on-line networking. (Where is that brick wall to hit my head again?) It is often more time efficient to maintain a high level of visibility using on-line networking – particularly between face-to-face meetings.
7) Use your PA or Virtual Assistant
You, personally don’t have to do all the hard work. Your PA or VA can identify events for you to go to, proactively manage your diary to help you implement your relationship action plans, find forum discussions for you to contribute to, write thank you ‘nice to meet you’ type e-mails for you after the events….
What else would you add to this list?