Manage your Mingling

The Definitive Business Networking Skills Masterclass

Networking is the essential skill in business today – it is a behavioural and organisational skill and can therefore be learned.

You can download the PDF here Networking skills Masterclass – the plan Mar 2014

Objectives of this networking masterclass

To work through the principles and practice of business networking so that by the end you will:

  • Understand what networking is and how to maximise the value in your network;
  • Know how to develop a networking plan;
  • Have developed your own networking plan for the next three months.
  • Understand the value of cross referrals

What is networking?

  • Networks are people.
  • Networking is about talking to each other to share ideas, information and resources.
  • Networking is the process of connecting people who can help each other meet their objectives; the two most important skills are listening and communicating.
  • Networking involves creating opportunities through meeting people, making contacts and building strong relationships.
  • Networking is the power of co-operation.
  • Networking is as simple as friendship – talking and listening. Kindness given will be returned.
  • ‘Networking is a specific marketing tool that is very effective in getting the word out to people’. Donna Fisher
  • Networking is about being natural and being yourself and using the essence of who you are to build long-term successful relationships with other people, the value of this is compounded as the network increases.
  • Networking is the passing along of information, ideas and contacts from one person to another and then possibly to more people.
  • ‘A network is a group of people with links to one another.’ Donna Fisher
  • ‘Networking is a reciprocal process.’ Susan Roane
  • A network amplifies my personal capital in the market.

Our definition of networking

‘Networking is the commitment to share specific knowledge with a select group of trusted individuals for the benefit of that group over a period of time.’

The key elements of business networking

  • Commitment – it involves work and time. There must be a commitment in terms of time, resources, costs etc.
  • Sharing – It is all about giving and to a lesser extent receiving, what is called the Law of Reciprocity, givers gain, reap what you sow.
  • Specific knowledge – emphasis is on knowledge not referrals, leads, contacts. The benefits that flow will be linked directly to your purpose – what do you want to get out of networking.
  • Select group – cannot include everyone, it would be too time consuming.
  • Trusted individuals – once trust goes, the network disintegrates.
  • Benefit of the group – all must benefit not one individual. Resentment will build up if the benefits’ flowing from the network becomes too one-sided.
  • Over time – networking takes time. Aim is to build the relationship first, then to look at how they can contribute.

What networking is not!

Many people are put off networking because they have an incomplete or jaundiced view of it. Networking is not:

  • Selling – selling is all about giving information in order to get them to agree to purchase from you.
  • Revelry – enjoy it, but you are there for a purpose.
  • Manipulation – helping out and expecting a ‘reward’ – keeping score or obligating others.
  • Collecting business cards.
  • Secrecy – cliques, clubs, gangs etc.
  • Pontificating – getting into the pulpit or on the soap box and sounding off on your favourite subject.
  • Being insincere – saying things that you don’t really mean to gain an advantage.
  • Predatory – a wolf in lamb’s clothing.
  • One-upmanship – boasting.
  • A dating agency.

Why networking is a skill worth acquiring

  • Constant change – it’s happening so fast that we need to be more agile, adaptable and alert – a network can supply many of the things necessary to keep us informed.
  • Broader roles – we cannot remain in our functional silos; we need to work across teams.
  • Increased complexity in business – how do we sort out the important details?
  • Information overload – there is too much information, too little time to absorb it.
  • Knowledge is power – where does knowledge reside? With people! Being able to access information puts you in a powerful position.
  • Reduced job security – loyalty to the company is eroding.
  • Increasing reliance on technology – social skills are on the decline. People that have the necessary life experiences and life skills will be heavily in demand.  Susan Roane.
  • Move from a manufacturing to a service based economy – buying the people not the product.
  • Cross referrals – increasing the value of existing customers
  • Preferred supplier’s lists – many are closed to new suppliers.
  • The workplace today – the importance of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs*) in the economy is rising.

Why Network at all?

Everyone is looking!!

Ensure your public profile reflects who you are and what you do in terms of your values. Use Linked In. Beware of your Facebook images and posts. People do read them.

We rarely pass on good news but we tell at least 4 – 6 people when we get poor treatment.

Lifetime value

A client is worth more than any one project. They have a life time value and need to be viewed in that light. If you can create loyalty to you for the entire duration of the clients purchasing life, you will generate significant income and profit. The way to calculate the lifetime value is:

Customer lifetime value

=

Average customer lifetime (Yrs)

×

Average purchases per year (Qty)

×

      Income from purchase (£k)

The benefits of networking

The benefits of improved networking skills are:

  • Improved bottom line performance – increased sales, less time acquiring new business, increased efficiency, increased productivity through increased numbers of contacts
  • A cost-effective way to generate new business, and maintain the loyalty of existing clients through cross referrals
  • Increased confidence through friendships and relationships – it will also be fun
  • A wider circle of contacts to give support when needed
  • An increased number and variety of opportunities, planned or otherwise
  • Improved career prospects – 75% of the best jobs are never advertised
  • A perception that you are more valuable
  • Useful feedback about you, your company, your customers and your competitors that you might not pick up an other way
  • Reduced stress. If you know what it is that you are trying to achieve you will be less stressed about doing it.

 Eight Ps of networking

1. Purpose

Have a networking plan (we will complete this later).

If you are going to dedicate scarce resources such as time and money to networking, what might you expect it to deliver?

  • Build your business
  • Information
  • Ideas
  • Innovation
  • Cross referrals
  • Career prospects

2. Preparation

Proper preparation prevents poor performance and helps settle nerves!

  • Toolkit. Business cards, notebook, pen, phone
  • Preparation for networking in general – conquering your nerves
  • Preparation for a specific event.

3. Probity

  • Be honest, open and trustworthy. Keep in contact regularly, but with a purpose, and avoid time-wasting. Become well-known for being reliable, punctual and friendly
  • Understand that trust is not a given right, it is earned. It is built up over time and over successful completion of many small tasks
  • Dealing with referrals as quickly as possible – then give feedback
  • Returning calls as soon as possible
  • Keeping your promises, so don’t make too many promises
  • Volunteering your services to the event or organisation

4. People skills

Be interesting and interested by:

  • Making conversation – be curious and be prepared to learn
  • Watching the body language – avoid off putting mannerisms, maintain eye contact
  • Listening – pay attention to what is said in the conversation as there might be clues to making links for others in your network
  • Active participation – nod occasionally to signal you are still listening
  • Remembering names – try it or admit defeat and ask them to repeat it. Simple advice – say their name as often as you can whilst you are speaking to them
  • Asking the right questions –
  1. KISS questions that are easy to answer;
  2. Revealing – what skills, knowledge and resources do they possess?
  3. Open – ask why, what, when, who, where, which, how.
  • Considering your bearing, posture, gestures etc – reflect your professionalism.
  • Etiquette – dress codes and the impact they have, avoid the kissing
  • Helping others to succeed.
  • Treating everyone with respect – be nice to people on your way up, you might meet them on your way down!
  • Building and keeping your reputation.
  • Focussing on trying to create the links that will help others.
  • Listening out for innovative ideas – it will make you appear that you are on the ball.
  • Being flexible – having the ability to communicate to a broad range of people
  • Being confident – speak with passion about your subject
  • Being positive – avoid being caught in the ‘putting the world to right’ brigade.
  • Bringing people together – learn how to open up gaps to introduce others – this is one of the benefits of regular attendance at an event.
  • Being encouraging – most people dislike the perceived pressure of a network event.
  • Revealing something about yourself – be honest but avoid anything too personal
  • Communicating that you are approachable – smile, eyes up, relaxed, look for opportunities to make contact
  • Exiting gracefully – you have made contact, exchanged business cards, noted any promises. Make your excuse to move on. Best bet – be honest!

5. Patience

The benefits of networking take time to build up and will have a lifetime value. Develop the relationship and your credibility first, before attempting to do doing any business.

‘Enhance your credibility by writing articles to get your name in front of lots of people.’  Donna Fisher

Look out for opportunities to get in contact – ask yourself this every time something happens or comes across your desk – who else in my network could use this?

For example:

  • Articles, press releases, books etc.
  • Events that they might wish to attend
  • Serendipity – you come across their name and it reminds you to contact them
  • Seek out common interests (sport, leisure, backgrounds etc)
  • Seek out possible links – do you know so and so, what are they doing now, I wonder?

People take time to get to know – use your questioning techniques and others in your network to discover if they are worth pursuing. If yes, then be patient.

6. Persistence

  • Ask for specific help and keep asking
  • Rejection will come – use your support network to get through it
  • Keep in contact – otherwise the lines of communication will eventually break
  • If contact does break down, take time to reconnect – be positive about it
  • Remember the Law of Reciprocity or Givers Gain
  • Become known as an expert
  • Sharpen your memory skills – take time out immediately after an event to download all that you have picked up and start thinking of links and contacts to communicate with
  • Review your network periodically – cut out time wasters, serial networkers, negative people, and dream stealers.

7. Practice

  • Practice your introduction and your questions
  • Practice writing everything down
  • Practice good administration after the event
  • Practice – don’t wait until you are perfect then practice, practice until you are perfect.

8. Plan

Planning is an essential element of networking and we will look at this shortly.

The process of networking

Networking is a three-phase process:

  1. Contact;
  2. Communicate;
  3. Collaborate.

1. Contact

It’s all about being seen at the right place by the right people.

Your aim is to make as many relevant contacts as you can, get to know them, talk to them, ask questions, actively listen to them, get them to talk about their favourite subject – themselves.

Different types of network

▪          Friends and family – always start here!!

▪          Networking organisations – NRG, BNI, BRE, Business Link, CBI, Breakfast meetings, Women in Management.

▪          Social – golf, sports clubs, church, reading groups etc.

▪          Business networks –professional institutes and bodies – CIM, CIMA, IoD etc.

▪          Formal – Round Table, Rotary, etc.

▪          Community – charity, fundraising, school activities, PTA, Governor.

▪          Other – singles clubs, investment clubs.

How to make them work

▪          Commit to attending clubs/events regularly to gain the maximum benefit.

▪          Be prepared to meet more strangers than acquaintances.

▪          Ask open questions.

▪          Make some decisions – do I like them? Do they like me? Are we compatible (watch the body language)? Do we do business with similar customers? Who are their customers? How long have they been in business?

Classify your contacts

How many contacts are there in your network?  Most people can manage about 150 active contacts effectively.

Grade your contacts relevant to your needs only. This sounds a bit mercenary or cold but it is the quickest way to save valuable time and energy. Business is all about people but we should be business-like, even in networking.

Diamonds

These are rare and valuable. They need looking after with frequent contact and face-to-face meetings. Keep them in contact at least every 30 days

Why might they be valuable? Because of their:

▪          Reputation – they are well known;

▪          Excellent network – they are well connected;

▪          Ability to generate referrals and create links;

▪          Information and knowledge;

▪          Support and helpfulness.

Gold nuggets

These people need working on to become really worthwhile.  These are the people that make up the active bulk of any network. They possess knowledge, expertise, insight, contacts that you may not have.

Consider adding people to your network who are different to you. In doing so, you add a degree of variety in your network.

Names

These are people that you have met but briefly, have very little in common with you or your business and therefore must not occupy too much of your time.

Do not discard anyone from your contact reference system; you never know when they might come in useful!

2. Communicate

What happens after you have made some excellent contacts? Remember, in a network, people need to get to know you first, and then they will want to work with you.

Try to build a relationship. Communicate in a manner appropriate to the industry and the type of business.

Be proactive

▪          Email them – then they have your email address and can log your details in their email database or a similar contacts management system.

▪          Remind them where and when you met, say briefly what you discussed and summarise any promises that you made.

▪          Follow up on any promises – this is critical.

▪          If it is appropriate, let them know what you are looking for.

▪          Keep the communication channel open – focus on trying to create links that will help others.

▪          Look through your contacts list every day or every week as appropriate and follow up on a set number of contacts.

▪          Use the phone, make an appointment, have a meeting.

▪          Write a letter or use email and ask them what they are looking for. For example: ‘I saw this and thought of you’, ‘It has been four weeks since we last spoke, and I hope all is well. Whatever happened about that lead?’

▪          Try and make it relevant to the individual and be sincere – don’t send family photos just because you think you should.

▪          Think about what you might do to develop the relationship. You might offer advice, referrals, information, be a good listener, helpful, encourage, sympathetic.

3. Collaborate

Think about the benefits of setting up a small team of like-minded individuals that are willing to work together.

You will eventually have a number of good contacts that you communicate with on a regular basis. You have a good idea what it is that they want and they have a good idea what it is that you want – what next?

Set up your own individual network team. The team can offer support, advice, feedback, innovation, inspiration and information. They might even be competitors.

Think ‘Co-opitition’ – co-operating and competing simultaneously. Make contact with other law firms

The practicalities of setting up the team

Have one Golden Rule: the network team is built on trust. Any abuse of that trust means instant exclusion from the team.

Give first – Make a list of all the important people in your network, write out a list of their wants and needs and ask if any member of your network team can assist them.

Share with the other team members the list of all the people you do business with or have good contacts with.

Work together to your mutual advantage.

Make calls on the other team members’ behalf – this is easier than trying to sell yourself or your company.

Work out a plan with your team to get the dream bit of business – make it worth everyone’s while.

 

About Rob Hook

Seven years in the British Army – commissioned into the Infantry.

Ten years international sales and marketing experience in medical instruments with Gillette UK and Welch Allyn Inc. working in Scandinavia, Africa, the Middle East and the UK.

Fourteen years as the International Sales and Marketing Manager with Isotron plc, market leader in medical device sterilisation in the UK.

One year – Commercial Director of High Efficiency Skills Ltd, a business skills training company.

Two years as a Partner in Consultrix – working with owner managed businesses looking to grow.

Three years as an independent Sales and Marketing Advisor helping companies to grow through improved commercial activities.

 How did I get involved with networking?

▪          Diploma in Marketing – learned the essentials of communication.

▪          MBA at Bath – My final year project focused on Relationship marketing – the importance of firms networking to maximise their returns.

▪          Built up High Efficiency Skills, a business skills training company through networking.

▪          Attending numerous networking events – BNI, IoD, Ecademy, and NRG.

Acknowledgements

The following books were used in the background research for this Masterclass:

▪          Meet, Greet and Prosper – Roy Sheppard (www.RoySpeaks.com)

▪          The Secrets of Word-of-mouth Marketing – George Silverman

▪          Professional Networking for Dummies – Donna Fisher

▪          How to Work a Room – Susan Roane

▪          Seven Second Marketing and others by Ivan R Misner

▪          The Anatomy of Buzz – Emmanuel Rosen

▪          The Tipping Point – Malcolm Gladwell

▪          Network Your Way to Success –  Charles Ruffolo