Most people know they need to build and maintain a network of friends, associates, and potential referral partners. The value of your network can be quite large when it comes to building a business, getting new clients, finding a new job, changing careers, or just finding someone you can trust to watch your kids while you are out of town. But some people just don't do it. Yes, it's a lot of work, takes time, skill, and you may not see any results initially. In addition, you have to build your social network before you need it. However, everyone who has an engaged network is happy they make the investment in building and maintaining it. Let's face the fact: everybody needs help from other people.
"The best time to make friends is before you need them." - Ethyl Barrymore
Many people find that their social network has gone cold or they never really had one and now they need some help from their friends for some reason or purpose. Or, they are new in town and would like to get connected to the community. In any case, they find themselves starting from scratch to build a network they can rely on.
I want to be clear that a true social network has certain definitions that make it different from an email list, a bunch of Facebook 'friends,' or lots of connections on LinkedIn. There are several metrics and questions that need to be applied to measure the worth of your network as it relates to your purpose. That's a topic for another (several) articles. Let's just say that a network is about 150 people who you know, there is trust between you, you know each other's work, interests, background, skills, history, what they are looking for, and you know some people in their network.
So, where do you start, given that as we get older, or the longer we have been in the cave surfing the internet, or working and raising a family, it's harder to get out and meet people? This is especially true with a demanding job, a family, home, and other commitments. You will also probably need some skills to build and maintain a network that meets your purpose but, don't let that get in the way of just getting started. You can add skills and metrics later.
The important thing is to just get out and start connecting. Here are three things you can do right away that won't interfere with your life:
- Contact everybody you know and invite them for a coffee/tea. Try to connect with 3 people a day by phone and meet with 1 or 2 people each day. Keep the get togethers short at no more than 20-30 minutes.
- Add two new people to your list every day. As you go about your daily life, start conversations with people you come in contact with. If it makes sense, you can exchange contact information and follow up in a few days and arrange a time to meet for coffee/tea.
- Join some organization, club, or class that you are interested in. You will be amazed by how many people you can meet in a short time.
You're going to need some method of keeping track of your appointments and contacts. A calendar and a stack of cards or a simple contact manager is fine. You don't need anything fancy.
So, what do we talk about? What do I say? What's my pitch?
Initially, and for some time, you need to forget about what it is that you want (a job, leads, referrals, sales, etc.) and focus entirely on the other person. Here are three things to keep in mind:
- Listen. Ask questions, be interested, learn about them and their story, and avoid giving your opinion or talking too much yourself. Your intention is to learn about them.
- Make a friend. If people do business with people they know, like and trust, then that is your goal: to build trust. Pitching them on your product or service and talking about yourself and what you want doesn't help. Don't ask for referrals yet. Just build trust.
- Give more. Find a way to help them. Maybe it's a connection, a referral for them, an introduction, or maybe they just need someone to listen to them and you can give them your heart.
Some people you will want to meet again and learn more. There will be a real connection. So, book a time to meet them again. With other people, not so much. Hey, no big deal, just keep going and you will find your network growing in a short time.
It's not so hard to build meaningful relationships with people that go deeper than an exchange of referrals. It takes a little practice but if you did it as a kid, you can do it now. You will feel better and a lot more confident in a short time.
I challenge you to actually do this for 30 days straight. No kidding, no matter what the status of your network is, do this little exercise. It will explode for you in a good way.
Let me know how it goes so you can take it to the next level and put your growing network to good use.
Andrei Jablokow, Ph.D. '84, '87, is a mental strength coach. He works with high performers, those professionals and business owners who want to take their game to the next level. His clients have more clarity and focus, as well as the mental strength to manage change and adversity. And, they get more done with less stress.
Andrei has a diverse background in interpersonal communication, coaching, speaking, training, sales, marketing, education, and accelerated learning. He's able to guide professionals to reach their highest levels of mastery, so they're able to maximize and sustain their performance... even under pressure.
Andrei is a business partner of Steve Siebold, CSP. Steve is author of 177 Mental Toughness Secrets of the World Class. He's been featured on The Today Show, Good Morning America, BBC Television Europe, NBC Australia, CBS, FOX, and dozens of other television and radio programs and in newspapers and magazines around the globe. Steve and Andrei train sales and management teams in the strategies of mental toughness to increase their bottom line results.
Andrei has a BS and MS from Drexel, as well as a PhD in mechanical engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He's taught engineering at Penn State University and Drexel.
He a graduate of Coach University, Structogram® Master Trainer, a Certified Book Yourself Solid® Coach, and a Certified KAI Practioner. He's also Belbin® Team Role Accredited and a PhotoReading® Instructor.
A martial artist and a Certified Kettlebell Athletics Instructor, Andrei lives with his wife Kathryn and their two sons in Lansdale, PA.
For more information or to contact Andrei directly visit: www.AndreiJablokow.com.
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