Growing your network – Part 1

Lately I have received a few questions on how to grow one’s network. How do you go about this process?  Let’s start with a definition for a network. I would like define a network as a circle of contacts in business and social circles.  Most of these tips are not original.  Most have been picked up from experts over the years.

Lets start with two questions:

Why do you want to grow your network?

What do you have to offer your network?

Networking is not a new thing. People have been networking for as long as they have lived on earth.  However, what has evolved is the way people network and interact.  From the caves in prehistoric times to the social networks of the day, we have always connected with others in one way or another. The networking is getting more sophisticated by the day, more impersonal, more randomised but one thing remains unchanged. We are trying to connect!

What do you hope to achieve with your network? Whether its goals in business or personal life, you need to know what the goals are.

Before you can know people you haven’t met, why not start working on people you already know. All of us have people we know but how well do we know those people? Do we know what they are doing for a living? Do we know their strengths, competencies and weaknesses? Are we making the most of the strengths, skills that are already present in the circle of people we already know? We will truly amazed if we take time to understand the people that are already in our circle. Then as we progress within the existing circle of contacts we will start making progress outside this circle to people that we don’t know.

Remember the name! How often do you meet someone and want to talk to them but have forgotten their name. You can’t even remember the first letter of their name? What a tragedy! Remembering a name is a bonus but getting it wrong is a disaster. Rather confess that you have forgotten that get it wrong. There are many techniques to aid the memory but I will share just one or two. When you meet someone for the very first time, you have to be very observant. Something about that person, where you meet them, time of day, make a note of this.  Something will be striking. If there is nothing, that is striking enough! If you get a business card, make some notes at the back about what strikes you while you still remember. Pictures are a great help in remembering things. Make a mental picture. A lot of people forget names within a few minutes of hearing them. Pay attention! Treat every name with respect. When you hear someone’s name think about it and focus. When you converse focus on the conversation, focus on the person. You want to grow your network but do you have a genuine interest in people?

Quality not quantity! Grow your network slowly but steadily. Take time to know the people you meet. As your network grows, you will find that you spend less and less time per contact. As you grow your network, get as much information as you can on individual. When you need an expert or advice in something, you should be able to tell by going through your network whether you already know the person. If you grow your network too fast, the risk increases that you can’t keep in touch with your network and that you are forgotten.

Quick follow-through and quick wins! When you meet people for the first time, try and get the communication lines working as quickly as possible. When you get a chance to sit down send that email or make that call. You can commit to sending an email first thing in the morning. Do better, send one this afternoon. However, rather create reminders for the commitments you make otherwise you are already losing credibility before you are started if fail to keep the commitment. If you keep a commitment that’s a quick win in my books.  – BTM

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