What is networking?
Networking is the practice of maintaining positive relationships with customers both current and potential and other stakeholders to share information, ideas, and services to grow positive relationships with them. Positive relationships will help you access business opportunities among others.
Why the need for networking?
Networking is the practice of connecting with people from within and without your organization for the following reasons among others;
- Meeting people from different backgrounds to enhance your knowledge and connections;
- Accessing business advice and new information;
- Helping other people to solve their problems;
- Getting knowledge of best practices;
- Increasing your visibility;
- Offering value to others;
- Improving your personal and organizational brand;
- Enhancing support on sector issues;
- Improving business and personal growth and
- Developing personal relationships,
This is when you build relationships with colleagues within the same organization.
This is when you build relationships with other people outside your organization.
Business angle to networking
It is important to network with people as with time you will establish rapport and trust with them. In life, people tend to do business with people they know, like, and trust.
Principles of networking
The following principles are guidelines for effective networking;
Focus on purpose
The focus is to build relationships to enhance your capacity to attract, serve, and retain customers.
You have to develop a positive attitude towards networking with other people.
You must have the knowledge, skill, and experience to add value to other people through networking.
Be genuine and trustworthy
You must be frank and reliable when networking with other people.
You have to be willing to promote other people to enhance their image and capability.
Invest time and resources
You have to invest both time and resources in building an effective network.
You must have the capacity to anticipate others’ problems and act before they are aware of them or before they see a need to contact you for assistance.
Be approachable and helpful
You have to be friendly with a kind heart.
Long term approach
You must have a comprehensive plan to achieve an effective network with clear goals and objectives and a related action plan. Success will not come overnight.
Start small and grow the network
Do not expect to start in a big way because building the trust and confidence of other people takes time.
Whose role is it?
Networking is the responsibility of all staff because they need to capitalize on its benefits when they are carrying out the role of attracting, serving, and retaining customers.
Approach to Networking
The following approach can make your networking very effective;
You have to appreciate your current challenges in the area of attracting, serving, and retaining customers as they relate to the lack of effective positive relationships with other people. You have to identify people you plan to network with followed by collecting adequate knowledge and information on them.
You have to develop an approach that will help you move from your current position of ineffective positive networking with other people to the desired position of effective positive networking.
You have to be prepared to share the valuable information you have with other people so that they can also share their valuable information with you. The more you share valuable information with other people the more you get the same from them.
You have to follow up with people with whom you have shared information to confirm whether the information was well received and served the intended purpose.
You should be sure of what you are looking for in networking. No one will share information with you unless you do the asking.
You have to take the necessary actions to keep the network very active and relevant to the participants.
Ways to enhance your networking skills
There are many ways you can enhance your networking skills and the following are the key ones;
Focus on the purpose
Your mind should never go to your target of creating an effective positive network for both personal and organizational growth.
It is advisable to include networking among your planned activities in a week. This will make it easy for you or your assistant to fix appointments as time is already set aside.
Attend all events you have been invited to and give a proper apology for events that you cannot attend because of prior engagements. Effectively delegate your attendance at events to other people in your organization where possible.
Leverage on social media
Take advantage of social media platforms to share value-adding information. Avoid just forwarding information from other resources as sometimes the information is not up-to-date and relevant.
Improve your communication skills
Continuously develop your communication skills and where necessary attend training in effective communication.
Volunteer to make presentations
Be always ready to volunteer to make presentations as a main or substitute presenter when an opportunity arises.
Service your network
You have to promote activities that keep the network effective. These include sharing information among others.
Add value to others
Be deliberate in adding value to the people in your work. You could for example invite your network members to functions or events that enhance their visibility.
Take advantage of your existing network.
Do not underestimate your existing network as that is your starting point of reference. Start expanding your network from there.
What can go wrong with networking
There could be risks and challenges in networking which you should be prepared to handle. What can go wrong includes the following among others;
Asking for too much sensitive information from the network
You should avoid asking for information on delicate issues like faith and political affiliations among others. Concentrate on the purpose of the network. If needed the network should have guidelines that prevent people from asking or sharing sensitive information.
Improper and unethical behaviors should not be discouraged in the network.
Losing your contacts
You should have adequate controls to address the risks of losing contacts or network contacts being shared with the wrong people in case your computer or mobile phone is lost or stolen.
Not contributing to and maintaining the network
It is advisable to exit the network in case you stop sharing information and ideas aimed at adding value to the network members.
Unprepared when interacting with the network members
You have to be well prepared when you are sharing any information with the network to avoid sharing unintended information.
Negative mindset attitude
Despite the challenges you may be facing, you have to promote a positive mindset towards networking.
Effective positive networking enhances both your value and that of your organization.