Are you leveraging on your relationships to achieve your goals?
Extremely successful people leverage others to help them get where they want to go. They use other people’s money, other people’s resources and other people’s ideas to maximum effect to achieve their goals. If the most successful do this to turbocharge their success, it makes sense that it’s a key booster system for your success, too. The leverage of people is key to your success. This provides a compelling reason for you to network effectively – to achieve your goals.
Think and act strategically
Your own personal long term goals need to be the goals for your network strategy, too. Be strategic about who you meet. Have an understanding of the purpose of your networking – and who you need to meet and build relationships with in the long term, to reach your goals. Plan your action to get there, and develop the quality of that network, over time. You need to start considering yourself as your chief marketer, and treat everyone you meet as a potential contact you can leverage in some way. It is important to know the key factors that affect the value of your network, and you can develop strategies that help you to maintain and increase its value. There are five key influences on the value of your network which are, the size of your network, the quality of your network, the closeness of your network, and the understanding of your network. Clearly, the larger your network, the more potential contacts and opportunities you have, and the more valuable it becomes. What is the potential value of your network in terms of leverage, on your behalf? What sort of people do you know? What do they have, to help you get where you want to go? How close are your contacts to you? How strong are your ties? Strong relationships developed over years are naturally of higher quality than vague or fleeting relationships. Out of sight is out of mind, in most cases. If you do not keep in regular contact with your network, it degrades in size and quality. How well does your network understand what you do? Are members able to refer people to you, and spread your message on your behalf? Do they know you as the person to go to, for certain expertise?
Build a Network that Helps You Achieve Your Goals
The first step is to acquire your network. This means you need to go where the ‘right’ people go, and play the long game. If you will need funding, network with funders. If you need partners, network with potential partners. If you need to learn something, network with people who know. If you want to sell, network with potential buyers. You need to be always developing relationships with the sort of people you will need in the future, to get you to where you want to go. When the time comes, you will be able to pick up the phone and make it happen. It is said that ‘You are whoever you spend most time with’. Look around at your current social network or business colleagues. Spend time developing relationships with the type of people you want to become. You’ll pick up their attitudes and mindsets and you will get there faster. It is important to target key connectors – people with strong personal networks – in any industry, and build strong relationships with them. Leverage their networks, as well as your own.
When you have acquired your network you can then proceed to convert your network. You can do this by making a great impression when you meet people for the first time. It sets the stage for your future relationship. Be interesting and memorable to everyone you meet. Develop an authentic personal brand that is consistent and easy for people to remember. Sell the whole package, and make an effort in the whole interaction, from the presentation of your business card, to how you dress, to how you talk and follow up. Always find out how you can help the other person first, and find ways to deliver a result for them. Always seek to add more value than you take away. There is little point in selling at this stage. ‘One night stands’ rarely last, so go into every potential relationship thinking of its long term value. In a short term world, those who think long term really stand out. Be really clear about what it is you do, and why. A clouded message is never good. Practise an ‘elevator pitch’ that explains what you do within a few seconds. The simpler and more interesting you make your proposition, the easier it is to be remembered for it.
After conducting follow ups on your new network, the next step is to retain your network. Most relationships wither without regular contact or reinforcement, so continuously develop relationships with everyone you have met. Develop strong ties that count – really strong relationships with key players who are likely to help you towards your long term goals. This can be very labour-intensive, so try to maintain contact without high social overhead – conserving time, energy and resources for what’s important. Prioritise people who are really going to make a difference in the long term.
When you have converted and retained you network, you can then proceed to leverage your network. A highly valuable network only counts if you use it. The bigger and more engaged your network, the more powerfully this works. To create the greatest benefit for yourself and others, and to achieve your greatest success, it’s vital to use your network for leverage. Be creative and opportunistic – in the nicest possible way. Network in the same direction of your long term goals – and your well-chosen network will help you to achieve them. Having a long term strategic plan for growing, developing and leveraging your network can yield massive results. Make a wise investment of thought, time and resources into putting this into action over time, and reap the profits – with high interest.