Business Networking – It’s not ‘what’ you know…

Business NetworkingYou would be amazed at the number of people who still don’t understand the importance of networking. Building relationships is crucial – there are many smart, talented people who don’t progress as much as they would hope in their career because they are not visible to the “right” people. Use every opportunity to build relationships with a diverse group of people at different levels in organisations pertinent to your business or your career. When you meet people, one introduction isn’t enough – maintain contact with them – that’s how relationships are formed – over time – not just by one meeting.

Six degrees of separation works – the people you know, know people, who know people. Everyone you encounter has someone in their network with the potential to help you. The best relationships are formed by way of “introductions” or “referrals.” Everyone you meet has someone in their network who may be a potential client, supplier, employee, or employer of yours sometime in the future.

Online vs Offline networking – Which should you do?

In today’s world you need to do both! In my line of business, there is no substitute for good regular face to face contact with your key clients, suppliers and colleagues. I can really build powerful relationships much more quickly in this way. That being said, I’m a big user of LinkedIn and more recently Twitter  (see below) – both of which help me keep in touch with key contacts and influencers wherever they are in the world. I also use them to keep on top of what my contacts are doing, help them spread the word on important technology or business news and help target new markets and customers.

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedInOnline – There are many business networking sites out there, but those below are, by far (in my view), the easiest to help you get started:

1. LinkedIn – With over 100 million users worldwide and 5+ million in the UK, LinkedIn is one of the easiest, and arguably best, ways for career-minded professionals to connect. But it’s far more powerful than just an online CV. Use LinkedIn effectively and you can reap the rewards for your career – from being head hunted to closing business deals and establishing yourself as an expert in your field using Q&A and Groups. By upgrading your subscription you can also use LinkedIn to target customers or new contacts. I’ve found that once you get over a couple of hundred contacts, it has really come into its own and has helped me to connect with numerous new suppliers and potential business partners.

2. Twitter – I personally have found Twitter to be more effective than LinkedIn in growing my professional network. This is mainly because on LinkedIn, I generally only add colleagues and business contacts I have already worked with in the past or know personally. You are free to follow anyone on Twitter you want to connect with that may have similar or common interests. Therefore, Twitter will help you find and network with new people worldwide. When you are using Twitter For Business Networking it is important to remember to use it consistently to share your expertise, build your credibility, and take an interest in others. Many people make the mistake of immediately pushing products and services which results in alienating their followers.

3. Facebook – Whilst Facebook is primarily seen as a consumer social networking site, over the last year or so more and more businesses are setting up pages for people to ‘Like’. Thousands of well-known brands are interacting with their customers for service queries and publishing breaking news on product or services.

4. Plaxo – Whilst not really a ‘networking’ site, Plaxo provides automatic updating of contact information. Users and their contacts store their information on Plaxo’s servers. When this information is edited by the user, the changes appear in the address books of all those who listed the account changer in their own books.

Business NetworkingOffline – In the UK, there are many organisations that you can join that will help you build your business network – BNI, British Chambers of Commerce, Institute of Directors. All of these organisations have regional networking events.

Regionally in Yorkshire and Humber, UK We are extremely lucky to have a number of great networking organisations in addition to those mentioned above:

1. Yorkshire Mafia – Is an online and offline organisation that offer regular face to face informal meet-ups around the region – It brings together executives and stakeholders from the Yorkshire Business Community to meet, network, share experience, learn, build relationships and ultimately trade.

2. Techmesh – IT & Telecoms business to business (B2B) networking events, receive business development support, professional skills development and professional services provision. Business networking events feature global IT & Telecom keynote speakers and are held in Leeds, Sheffield, York and Hull on a monthly rotation.

3. Hull Bondholders – The Bondholder scheme in Hull is fundamentally about bringing businesses together to raise Hull’s profile and change its image, providing a positive context in which Hull’s businesses can operate. It’s also a fantastic networking opportunity for business people from businesses of all sizes to meet and explore business opportunities.

Some tips on Face to Face Networking:

1. Have a plan – Do you know who will be at the event? Find out if you can. Who do you really want to meet? Do a bit of online research about the people / companies you wish to engage with or ask around your own network as to key people you should meet.

2. Arrive early – people are more likely to approach you if there are fewer people in the room and you can get better visibility of who is arriving.

3. Don’t be shy – Introduce yourself simply by saying something like – ‘Do you mind if I join you?’

4. Be interested – in what the other person has to say. Ask lots of questions about them and their business.

5. Don’t sell – Networking should not be about the hard sell, although opportunities often present themselves and that’s ok. Networking is all about building relationships.

6. Business Cards – Ensure you have enough! Ensure you exchange business cards during interactions (or ‘bump’ your iPhones!)

7. Follow-up – a quick email or a personalised LinkedIn request following the event is key to keeping the relationship going.

8. Follow-up some more – If you feel that you made a good first impression with someone and you got on well, keep in touch.

9. Keep it up – you’ll be amazed after attending a few events the number of people who will start to recognise you and actively engage, especially if you’ve kept in touch.

Good luck with your networking…..Let me know how you get on!

Advertisements

10 ways to build powerful relationships

Strong Business RelationshipsIn my experience, over performance in business can’t happen consistently without great relationships. Similarly, if you look at underperformance in your team, you will often find that it is the lack of relationships or broken relationships that are the cause.

There is no quick fix….sorry. BUT, if you invest time, honesty, passion and energy into relationships, you will gradually see a shift, and with perseverance you can achieve great things.

 Below, I’ve outlined 10 actions that you can take that will make a difference!

1. Be interested in others….genuinely.

Dale Carnegie (How to win friends and influence people) says that “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” Invest time in getting to know your peers and your colleagues. WARNING – If you can’t do this genuinely – DON’T DO IT – you’ll be found out very quickly and will have the reverse effect.

2. Listen generously

Generous listening requires a commitment to learn about the person you want to build a powerful relationship with. In order to effectively practice generous listening, you must first be aware of your normal listening patterns. It is not all that easy to pay attention. Humans just aren’t wired that way. We get distracted. We are wired with connections – anything we hear can remind us of some other connection – and then we are distracted. So, you must be sensitive to your place of mind, and monitor and re-focus continuously. You must consciously choose to suspend your judgments, opinions and history with the person speaking. To do this, try listening with your whole body. Use all of your senses to listen, connect and be open to what the other person is communicating. You will be surprised at what you discover, but it does take practice.

3. Commit to a person’s success

Once you have made the decision to build a powerful relationship with someone, you should ask yourself the question – Do I want to commit to the success of this person? That’s a big ask, if you truly commit.  But, if the answer is yes, you will find yourself interacting differently with that person, asking different questions of them and opening up new possibilities with and for that person. In business, especially in larger businesses, it is very easy just to look after number one and point the finger elsewhere when things go wrong. If you are committed to a person’s success, you won’t point fingers – you’ll talk, you’ll coach, you’ll support and get to a resolution. It can be very very powerful, with practice.

 4. Try to understand what makes others tick

Everyone has different motivations and passions in life, and most people don’t leave their personal lives at the door when they come into their place of work. Spend time with your people to understand what motivates them and what their values, ways of working and ambitions are. By gaining an understanding of these it may help you formulate a new way of working that helps you both get the most from your relationship. This is the informal and best way, in my view, to get the best out of people. There are plenty of management tools out there concerning personality types that may supplement this – Myers Briggs, DISC Strategy being the better ones in my experience.

5. 121’s – It’s really important to invest time in your relationships One on One.  

Whether the people you are trying build powerful relationships with work for you or not, 121’s are an essential time for you to invest in your relationships. Ideally take time out of your diary for at least once per month if not every two weeks to work on your powerful relationship. If you can do these away from the office environment, even better. Try and structure these sessions in such a way that you both get something out of it. One session may be for you to focus on a task that you both may have an interest in, another might be for you to give each other feedback on where things may not be going quite so well, another maybe around an issue that one of you would like some advice on. Don’t cancel them if at all possible – these should be important to both of you!

Ask Questions, Don't Tell

6. Ask questions, don’t tell

As a business leader, you will often know the solution to a problem brought to you…How would you respond? If you are committed to someone’s success and want to build a powerful relationship, maybe the right way is to coach a solution from that person. The easy way out is to “tell people” rather than asking them. When you give out too many solutions, then people never learn to think for themselves and stretch their capabilities.

The purpose of asking questions is to stimulate dialogue and exchange of ideas. Such activity prompts the other person to think and learn and increases his or her commitment to what is being discussed. Even if you can answer the question as well or better than they can, ask it anyway. By actively involving them, it adds to their buy-in and performance quality and helps your relationship develop.

 7. Give feedback

Giving feedback is the cornerstone of powerful relationships. Very few people come to work to do a bad job and very few people go out of their way to upset people intentionally. Sometimes people are not aware of the impact they have on others either through their behaviours or actions. I’ve given a few ideas below on how you might approach giving feedback:

a) Give feedback in private and face to face if at all possible – never in a text message, IM or email. 

b) Be timely – give feedback as quickly as possible after the action / behaviour

c)  Be specific with the feedback and try to give a positive reinforcement of how they might have done ‘it’ differently

d) Don’t make it personal – talk about the action / behaviour rather than the individual

e) Ensure you give positive feedback when you notice the change of behaviour

8. Offer to help

Sometimes we all need some support, someone to bounce an idea around with or someone to sound off at. Offering to work with someone on an issue can often really help develop your relationship to a different level and may help take some of the weight off their shoulders at the same time.

9. ‘Wear their Glasses’ – Put yourself in their position

Looking at a challenge or situation from another person’s perspective is a really useful way of getting to the root of issues in the workplace and relationships. You’d be amazed at how differently people perceive the same issue, especially if you work in multi-disciplinary teams. This is another one to practice, as it’s not always easy – it may be one to try out as a team if you can.

10. Don’t put off difficult conversations

It’s often easier in the short-term to avoid confrontation, but the fact is, not having tough conversations costs your business money and is not helping deliver powerful relationships. If left unsaid, issues can create rifts in your relationships and those of your team, leading to further problems downstream.

Keys to the Corporate Kingdom - Book

Acknowledgements: Charles E Smith & Tony and Maggie Turnbull (The Merlin Factor) for their inspiration, energy and friendship.

%d bloggers like this: