Are You Using Networking Tools Effectively?

The Second Law of Notable Networking: Learn How to Use Networking Tools Effectively
(Click Here to read about the First Law of Notable Networking)

A Notable Networker must have and use the right tools to network skillfully.  All professionals need the tools of their trade to conduct business.  A painter needs a brush, a teacher needs a blackboard, and an administrative professional needs a computer.  To achieve success, networkers need their own tools as well.   Good networkers’ tools include:

  • name tags to identify themselves to others,
  • card holders to carry their business cards, and most important,
  • card files to carry other people’s business cards.

It has been said that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce coined the term “networking.”  Over the years, I’ve gone to many Chamber of Commerce business mixers.  Unfortunately, too many of them seem to practice a passive form of the technique.  However, depending on the chamber, some mixers can be an outstanding way to meet many new people.  At Chamber of Commerce mixers, people from a variety of businesses get together with the idea of meeting one another.

At these meetings, I often encounter people who don’t wear a name tag.  Of those who do, many neglect to put their company name or profession on the badge.  I can’t imagine anyone going to a business meeting and not telling everyone what business he or she is in!  You’ve got to let people know who you are and what business you’re in if you want to reap the full rewards of networking.

I also run into people who don’t have any business cards with them.  Business cards are one of the most inexpensive forms of advertising available and a crucial tool for networking.  They should be well designed and present a professional image.  Most important, you need to have them in your possession!  A large stack of cards sitting in the desk drawer at your office doesn’t help much at a business mixer.  Always carry a small card case full of business cards with you and keep a large box of business cards in the glove compartment or trunk of your car for restocking your card case on the spot.  Use the backs of any cards you get from others to make notes that will jog your memory about each individual or about the conversation you had.

In addition, you should go a step further and carry a vinyl or leather card-carrying case or book for the cards of the people you network with.  These are people in your own personal network of contacts, people who presumably are storing your cards and referring you as well.  Always keep three or four of their cards so you can hand one to anyone interested in their services.

One way to enhance your networking efforts is to use computer software.  When you get back to your office, you can enter the new names and information you’ve acquired into a contact management program to help you organize your information and enable you to easily handle follow-up activities.  In addition to these, several general database programs, such as Relate2Profit, provide contact management capabilities.  You can log in new information and contacts, get reports of your progress, and reminders.  If you’re not already using a program such as this, rest assured that the learning time is a couple of hours or less.

Do you have a favorite networking tool or a particular software program that you’ve found to be especially useful in enhancing your networking efforts?  If so, please write about it in the comment forum below–I’m always interested in hearing about new tools for increasing networking effectiveness. Thanks!

 

Which Is Better–Online Networking or In-Person Networking?

 

In this brief video, Roger Green and I talk about online networking versus in-person networking and also what I discovered when doing research for the book Business Networking and Sex in regard to how much time is necessary to invest in networking in order to get results.

When it comes to networking, there’s online networking and there’s face to face networking.  The simple fact is–it’s not “either/or” . . . it’s “both/and.”  Online networking doesn’t impact face-to-face networking in a negative way. It enhances it.

If you want to be successful in building your personal network, you need diversity in your networks. I highly suggest that people join a few different networks, rather than just sticking with one.

What in-person networks do you currently belong to?  Which online networks do you currently belong to?  In the comments section, please share which networks (both in-person and online) you belong to that you’ve had the most success with–perhaps someone else might read about your experiences and gain success with those networks as well.

NetTime: How Much Time Should You Spend Networking?

The secret to getting more business through networking is. . . spending more time doing it!   OK, well, it’s a little more complicated than that because you have to spend time doing the right things.  However, devoting the necessary time is the starting point.  So how much networking time (or NetTime) should you spend developing your personal network and what kind of results can you expect to see?

Based on a survey that I helped to write and conduct of over 12,000 business professionals from every populated continent in the world, we finally have a definitive answer to those questions.  The study found that people who said “networking played a role” in their success spent an average of 6.3 hours a week participating in networking activities.  On the other hand, the majority of people who claimed that “networking did NOT play a role” in their success spent only 2 hours or less per week developing their network.  

Clearly, those people who spent very little time engaged in the process felt that networking was not an effective way to build their business.  As with many other aspects of life, you clearly reap what you sow.  It’s no wonder that the people who didn’t invest as much time also did not realize as much reward.  This demonstrates the direct correlation between the amount of time you devote to the networking process and the degree of success that you will likely realize from it.

The typical person in the survey who spent a little over six hours a week networking generated almost 47 percent of all their business through referrals and networking activities.  Of the 12,000 global participants in the survey, women spent less time networking (6.19 hours compared to 6.44 for men), yet generated a higher percentage of their business through the process (49.44 percent compared to 43.96 percent for men).

Why would women spend less time and get a higher percentage of their business from referrals than men?  Well, we discovered that men tended to be more transactional in their networking activities.  That is they were more likely than women to be focused on the “business first and the relationship second.”  On the other hand, women were more likely to be relational in their networking activities.  In other words, they were more likely than men to “focus on the relationship first and do the business second.”

An emphasis on relationships first was clearly and undeniably a key factor in determining whether people were going to identify  networking as having played a role in their success. When we looked at the responses from all the participants who said that networking had played a role in their success and then compared them to those people who focus on relationships first, we discovered that the majority of respondents who felt they’ve achieved success through networking also felt that it was better to build the relationship first and then focus on the business.  Consequently, regardless of gender, business professionals who focused on the relationship first and the business second tended to do better than those business people who focused on the business first.

In other words, relationships beat transactions when it came to networking.  The reason that women seem to have done better in the global study was that women tended to be more relational then men.

Those who skip the relationship building and attempt to establish an “all business” interaction often discover that trust and goodwill are more than just window dressing – they are part of the social capital that energizes a mutually rewarding business relationship.  People who bypass relationship building are more likely to feel that networking has not contributed to their success, and they are probably right – because they’re doing it wrong or at least not doing it enough.

You may be reading this article and thinking – OK, I now know that I need to be spending at least 6 ½ hours a week networking.  Well, that’s true IF you want to be average (and what successful business person wants to be average)!   If on the other hand, you’d like to be above average – you need to devote more time than that to the cause.  The optimum amount of NetTime is more likely to be 8-10 hours a week if you want to be one of those people that are generating well over half their business from referrals.

How much NetTime do you spend each week?  More?  Less? and what percentage of business (total) do you get from your networking efforts?  Comment below.

Diversity and Networking

When it comes to business networking, you never know who people know.  One of the important keys to being successful at building a powerful personal network is diversity. 

In running a large business networking organization for the last two decades, I often speak to people who tell me they want to network exclusively business professionals who have similar clients.  Although it is good to include these people in your personal network, networking with them exclusively would be a tremendous mistake.

It is human nature to congregate with people that are very much like us.  People tend to cluster together based on education, age, race, professional status, etc… The problem with this is that when we surround ourselves with people who have similar contacts it may be difficult to make connections with new people or companies with whom we desire to do business.

A diverse personal network enables you to increase the possibility of including connectors or “linchpins” in your network.  Linchpins are people who in some way cross over between two or more clusters or groups of individuals; this allows them to link groups of people together easily.  The best way to increase the number of possible connections in your network is to develop a diverse network – not a homogeneous one.

Having developed thousands of networking groups in dozens of countries around the world, I can categorically state that the strongest networking groups I’ve seen are generally ones that are diverse in many, many ways.  I believe that one of the problems in understanding this concept is a somewhat built-in bias that many people have about networking with individuals that are outside their normal frame of reference.  Let me give you an example.  A good friend of mine in Boston, Patti Salvucci, recently told me an amazing story.

Patti runs dozens of networking groups for BNI in the Boston area.  She arrived a little early to the meeting of one of the groups she was visiting that met in a private room at Fenway Park and noticed an older gentleman setting up coffee mugs in preparation for the meeting.  Patti is a master networker and so she struck up a conversation with the man while waiting for members to arrive.  In talking to him, she was really taken by the amazing tenor of his voice.  She mentioned to him that he had an incredible voice and asked what he did before this.  The gentleman informed her that he used to be a commentator for CNN!  He went on to tell her that in his later years, he wanted to work in a less hectic job as well as live closer to his daughter.  He decided to take on the job of managing the owner’s suite at Fenway Park in Boston because it gave him an opportunity to be close to his family while having a less hectic career later in life.

Patti asked him about some of the people that he met during his time in broadcasting.  He shared many great stories with her including an interview that he had done with JFK a week before he was assassinated.  He also talked about meeting Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela during his career.  It was an interesting conversation that she genuinely enjoyed.

Later when the meeting was in full swing, one of the members, Don, publicly mentioned that he would really like to do a radio talk show someday and was looking for some contacts that could help him pursue this dream.  After the meeting, Patti asked Don… “Do you see that guy over there (pointing to the ex-CNN commentator)?  Have you seen him before?”  “Yea,” said Don, “he’s the guy who sets up the coffee for our meeting.”  Patti said to Don, “did you know that he used to be a broadcaster for CNN?”  Don said, “I had no idea!!!”  Patti suggested that Don introduce himself and learn a little about the man he’s seen every week for the last several months because he may very well be able to make a connection for him in the broadcasting industry.

The irony in this story is that he had seen the man on many occasions but had not struck up a conversation with him because he felt that they had little, if anything, in common.  The truth is, when it comes to networking – not having a lot in common with someone may mean that they can be a connector for you to a whole world of people that you might not otherwise be able to meet.

If you wish to build a powerful personal network – branch out.  Build a diverse network of professional contacts that include people that don’t look like you, sound like you, speak like you, or have your background, education, or history.  The only thing that they should have in common with you and the other people in your network – is that they should be really good at what they do.  Create a personal network like that, and you’ll have a network that can help you succeed at anything.

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