How Much Networking Should I Do?
It's a question I get asked a lot ...
POSTED BY JACKY SHERMAN ON 30/08/2017 @ 8:00AM
The long answer is that it depends on what you mean by networking and what you want to achieve. What most people mean when asking this question is, how many networking events should they attend?
You are networking with every interaction you have!
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How many groups should they join where they regularly get the chance to pitch their products or services to a whole host of strangers. The more enlightened might add in, "getting to know them and building a relationship first".
"So what do I mean when I talk about networking?"
I mean working with your contacts to generate business, gain support and increase your knowledge. It can also be about having more influence and to give back, generally in business or specifically in your industry or your local community.
You are networking with every interaction you have with other people throughout the day. Whether that is in person, on the phone, online or (remember those days) by post.
"So the short answer to the question is you can’t help but network all day every day that you are working!"
And seeing as you are doing that already, you might as well do it consciously and do it skillfully. So before interacting with anyone, spend a quick minute thinking about how can you use this call, meeting, email or social media post to build your relationship with this person so that you help each other achieve your objectives.
We use a nice little mnemonic to help you. You may have heard it before; VCP:
V is for visibility
At a surface level, this is about staying in touch,so they know you’re around and that you are still interested in knowing them.
Deeper than that, it’s about what you do in your business. What services/products each of you offer and to whom. Are you up to date with their plans and aspirations and do they know your latest news?
I’m not suggesting you turn every phone call into an interrogation, but it is about showing an interest and sharing your stuff too. Simple things like answering phone calls and emails and commenting on their social media posts. Try adding a question or two to your conversation that deepens your knowledge. How about an invitation to coffee or meet down the pub, or rugby or ... whatever?
C is for Credibility
Before people in business are willing to support you, help you or even just listen to your ideas they will want to suss out if they can trust you personally and professionally and that you know what you are doing.
This takes time, and many people underestimate how long it can take for others to believe you are credible in your business enough for them to be willing to invest their time and energy let alone their trusted contacts, in you and your business.
The key here is to build content. Use every opportunity to demonstrate what you know and how well you know it. Equally, give the other person the chance to prove their trustworthiness and credibility too. Sharing stories and anecdotes are ideal for this and much more compelling than a list of the features of your services.
The time to tell these vary, but a great opener is if someone asks you, "how’s business?" and instead of saying, "Busy busy" you try, "interesting, last week my client ..." and you continue with something a client achieved that shows you in a great light too.
P is for Productivity
Once you know what help each other needs and you’ve achieved a level of credibility with each other, you will be willing to act to help each other. Whilst this reciprocal giving is never tit for tat, make sure that you are giving what you can as well as asking for something in return.
A word of warning here: ensure you have assessed how the other person could help you. Don’t expect great things from someone who has neither the time, knowledge or contacts that you want. All that will happen is that they will stop taking your calls and answering your emails.
My tip here is to start by asking for something small yourself from what you’ve gleaned from your conversations to date and build up from there.
All these activities can be undertaken without going near a formal networking group if you weave these activities into your interactions with the people you know.
"The value of going to formal business networking events is that you can catch up with a whole host of people at one time!"
Use the time at the beginning of the meeting when everyone is milling around to find out what people are up to and share your news too. If you pick your events or groups wisely, you will also meet new people with different knowledge and skills and contacts of their own to add to your pool. Many network groups are designed to facilitate you achieving a high level of VCP more quickly than you can achieve it on your own.
So returning to the original questions ... carry on networking all day every day with the serious intent to deepen your relationship with the people you're dealing with already.
Complement it by attending formal networking events to meet relevant like-minded business people who will be willing and able to collaborate with you.
"How many events should you attend? I recommend three. Why three? Because 2 is not enough and 4 is too many!"
To learn more about how to choose the right events for you, call me on 07970 638857 or click here to ping me an email and I’ll send you a copy of our report 'How to Choose your Networking Groups' free of charge.
Until next time ...
More about Jacky Sherman ...
I help people build and maintain productive working relationships both with their work colleagues and with a wider network to win more business. I do this by combining my skills in coaching, mediation and training with my extensive experience in senior management.
What I love most about my work is when my clients get those a-ha moments because I know they have seen for themselves the way that they want to move forward. Then they will achieve their ambitions.
Helping people who are having challenges with their working relationships gives me enormous pleasure. It was my privilege when working in health care to see how people working together can make the impossible seem easy and accomplish miracles as a result.
So helping people build or restore strong relationship with their colleagues makes even the hardest work easier, alleviates distress for the individual and reduces problems for the whole organisation.
In all this work trust is an essential ingredient to winning business so most of my work comes through referrals. Referrals come through strong business relationships so it was a natural extension for me to work with Ascentiv and train others in how to get consistent and predictable referrals from their network.
What a fantastic way to earn a living!
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