DOs and DON’Ts for effective networking
written by Irina Scarlat April 7, 2015
The most important asset of an entrepreneur is his agenda, and reaching to the right contact at the right time, using the right approach, can help you attain your professional (and personal) goals faster and easier. Effective networking and building valuable connections have been discussed at length last week with our MVP Academy Class of 2015, in a 4-hours workshop held by Paul Renaud, Executive Coach.
Paul has kindly accepted our invitation to join the program and share his expertise with our startups. Having more than 31 years of professional experience (15 of them as an executive spanning 10 countries), Paul is a qualified executive coach for any management level and he is specialized in optimizing performance. His “can-do” attitude is contagious, and he shared with us some valuable insights, outlining how we can use networking to make a difference in everything we do.
There’s been a lot of attention on the importance of networking lately, so let’s start by discussing what’s it all about. According to the Business Dictionary, networking means creating a group of associates and keeping it active through regular communication for mutual benefit. And the underlined words in the definition are not there by mistake! Instead, they emphasize some of the core elements of effective networking: keeping your contacts active by constantly interacting with them, as well as understanding that you have to think what you have to offer before actually considering “what’s in it for you” (the mutual benefit part).
And this is not all. Networking is an experiential process that can be used irrespective of whether you’d like to develop your customer base, increase your sales, receive honest advice or simply meet new people. And there are a couple of DOs and DON’Ts that you should consider if you want to become a master of networking and use this process to your advantage.
Address networking with the law of abundance
The law of abundance is the belief that resources are unlimited and by sharing success with others, a win-win situation is created. This fundamentally contrasts with the scarcity mindset, founded on the idea that, if someone else wins or is successful in a situation, that means you either loose, or it’s a zero-sum game. Individuals having an abundance mindset are better networkers since they share their contacts, their ideas, and their time, while rejecting the notion of a zero-sum game and being able to celebrate the success of others, rather than feeling threatened by it.
“The Law of Abundance is fundamental in networking because if you understand this law, believe in it, and start sharing your network, you will receive in ’droves’. It goes something like this: The world has tremendous abundance. The world is abundant with opportunity, abundant with clients, abundant with ideas and abundant with good fortune. Networking in line with the law of abundance mindset has proven time and time again that the more you share with people, the more you get in return.”, believes Paul.
The more, the merrier
It’s true that sometimes less is more, but not when it comes to networking. Here everybody you know is a contact and the more contacts you have, the more you learn on a variety of topics and the wiser you get. First thing to do is to be aware of the networks you have at your disposal: fun networks (friends, family, service clubs), work networks (both intra- and extra-organizational, professional organizations, business associations), and play networks (such as social media). Then try to leverage them by getting to know as many people as possible.
“Every time I meet a new person, I learn something new. This is why I push myself to meet a new person every day”, says Paul
Embrace the right attitude
In the end, it’s your attitude that makes the difference, regardless if you are just starting to understand what networking is all about, or you feel that you are pretty comfortable with the concept.
“If you equate networking to something that is boring, manipulative, self-serving, too difficult and fake, that is what you will end up with. People who like to self-admit that they are not good at networking have already created their own constraints, their own limits. In fact, the reverse is true. Anybody can be an effective networker if you follow the right path and embrace the right attitude. Your attitude will dictate how effective you become as a networker”, recommends Paul.
Once you get these things straight, be aware that there are also several mistakes that you are prone to make while networking.
Don’t network only to get something in return
One common misbelief is that networking is only about “what’s in it for you”. Leave this mindset behind, and think first and foremost at what you have to offer and how you can help the person you’re meeting with. By doing so, you’ll turn into a reliable contact and build a sustainable, long- term relationship with the persons you meet. Afterwards, just ask for help whenever needed.
“Don’t approach clients to sell, but rather try a different approach: ask people for their advice. Networking is basically asking someone for an insight, help, a suggestion or ultimately a contact. In order to get to that point however, you gotta ask! Don’t give it a second thought. Anybody who looks down on you for asking for help, advice or a contact name doesn’t deserve to be in your network in the first place – take their shortsightedness as it is and just move on!”, recommends Paul.
Don’t try to get results overnight
Mainly because you won’t and you’ll end up being disappointed and you’ll get caught in the fallacy of thinking that networking is useless. Remember that networking is not about selling, but about developing rapport with people. This is why it’s important to get to know them first and show a genuine interest in who they are as a person, before you start selling something or talking business.
“Give it time. Networking benefits become obvious only after many months of meeting people and building connections effectively, which is my easy to remember definition of networking. You will not see benefits after a few days and you have to be patient”, said Paul.
Set your networking objectives straight, prepare your ice-breaker and just start doing it! It may seem awkward in the beginning, but you’ll get comfortable as time goes by and you’ll end up being a natural. And don’t forget to listen: the less you speak, the more you’ll learn about that person and making then feel they are the most important person in the world will help you out on the long run. Last but don’t least, don’t forget to always ask the WDYK question (Who do you know) whenever you need to contact someone that might be out of your reach.
“Even if you don’t have many contacts (like I did when I first arrived in Romania), you have to start somewhere. Go to networking events. Learn. Make mistakes and try to pick up new skills. Nothing in business is more important than to seek and develop meaningful long standing relationships with people, be it staff, partners or shareholders. Everything in the world we want to do or get done, we must do with and through people – I wish I had learned this earlier in my career. Why not embrace networking as way to get you to the next level? And don’t forget that the mentors are here to help you!”, advised Paul Renaud the MVP Academy Class of 2015 at the end of the workshop.
Looking to find more valuable information on how to become a great networker? Then you should definitely read Paul Renaud’s “A Networking Book”, a book of action that outlines the basic truths and effective networking rules that you can apply to your personal advantage. We’ve read it, we’ve liked it and we definitely recommend it further.