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Building Your Network

Successful business people draw on all their experiences and contacts.

Brian Tracy

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We live in a society and, as a member of that society, it’s likely that every change in your life is strongly influenced by other people in some way. The courses you take in school that shape your career are often at the instigation of a friend or counsellor. The books you read, the tapes you listen to and the seminars you attend are almost invariably the result of a suggestion from someone you respect. The occupation you select, the job you take and the key steps in your career are largely determined by the people you meet and talk to at those critical decision points in your life. In fact, at every crossroad in your life, there is usually someone standing there pointing you in one direction or another.

According to the law of probabilities, the greater number of people you know who can help you at any given time, the more likely it is that you will know the right person at the right time and place to give you the help you need to move ahead more rapidly in your life. The more people you know, the more doors of opportunity will be open to you and the more sound advice you will get in making the important decisions that shape your life.

The right fit

David McLelland of Harvard did a 25-year research study into the factors that contribute most to success. He found that, holding constant for age, education, occupation and opportunities, the single most important factor in career success is your ‘reference group’. Your reference group is made up of the people with whom you habitually associate and identify. These are the people you live with, work with and interact with outside of your work. You identify with these people and consider yourself one of them. They consider you one of them, as well.

It’s about trust

When you develop a positive reference group, you begin to become a member of the in-crowd at your level of business. The starting point in this process is to develop a deliberate and systematic approach to networking throughout your career.

People like to do business with people they know. They like to socialise and interact with people with whom they are familiar. And they like to recommend people they trust. The best networkers are never unemployed for very long.

One of the biggest mistakes people make when they begin networking is scattering their time and energy indiscriminately, and spending their time with people who can be of no help at all. Even if they attend organisation meetings, they often end up associating with people who are neither particularly ambitious nor well-connected.

When you network, you must be perfectly selfish. You want to become all you can over the course of your career. Any success you could ever desire will require the active involvement and help of lots of other people. Your job is to focus your energies and attention on meeting the people who can help you.

Choosing contacts

When you network, your aim is to meet people who are going places in their lives. You want to meet people who are ahead of you in their careers and in their organisations. You want to meet people you can look up to with pride. You want to meet people who can be friends, guides and mentors. You want to think ahead and meet people who can help you move into your ideal future more readily. For this reason, you must sort people into categories: helpful vs non-helpful, ambitious vs non-ambitious, going somewhere vs going nowhere.

You begin your networking process at your place of work. Look around and identify the top people in your organisation. Make these people your role models and pattern yourself after them. One of the best ways to start networking is to go to someone you admire and ask for his or her advice. Don’t be a pest. Don’t tie up several hours of their time. Initially you should ask for only a few minutes and you should have two or three specific questions. When you talk to a successful person, ask questions like, “What do you think is the most important quality or attribute that has contributed to your success?” and, “What one piece of advice would you give to someone like me who wants to be as successful as you some day?”

There is a law of incremental commitment in networking. It says that people become committed to helping you,

or associating with you, little by little over time. In some cases the chemistry won’t be right and the person with whom you would like to network will really not be interested in networking with you. Don’t take this personally. People get into, or out of, networking for a thousand reasons. However, if there is good chemistry, if you like the person and the person likes you, be patient and bide your time. Let the networking relationship unfold without overeagerness on your part.

If you try to go too fast, you’ll scare people away. Instead of asking your superiors for more money, ask for more responsibility. Tell your boss that you are determined to be extremely valuable to the organisation and that you are willing to work extra hours in order to make a more important contribution.

There is nothing as impressive to a boss as an employee who continually volunteers for more responsibility. Many people have the unfortunate goal of doing as little as possible for as much money as possible. But not the winners. The winners realise that if all you do is what you’re being paid for today, you can never be paid any more in the future.

Reap what you sow

Whenever you do something nice or helpful for others, they feel a sense of obligation. They feel like they owe you one. They have a deep, subconscious need to pay you back until they no longer feel obligated to you. The more things you do for people without expectation of return, the more they feel obligated to help you when the time comes.

We have moved from the age of the go-getter to the age of the go-giver.

A go-giver is a person who practices the law of sowing and reaping. He or she is always looking for opportunities to sow, knowing that reaping is not the result of chance. You’ll find that successful people are always looking for opportunities to help others. Unsuccessful people are always asking, “What’s in it for me?”

The more of yourself you give away with no direct expectation of return, the more good things come back to you in the most unexpected ways. In fact, it seems that the help we get in life almost invariably comes from people whom we have not helped directly. Rather, it comes from others who have been influenced by people whom we have helped directly.

Actively participate

Whatever your job or occupation, there are trade and industry associations, business associations and service clubs that you can join. Excellent networkers are among the best-known and most respected people in the community. To reach that status, they followed a simple formula. They carefully identified the clubs and associations whose members they can help and support and who can help and support them in return. And then they joined and participated.

When you look at the various organisations you should join, select no more than two or three. Target the ones with the people who can be the most helpful to you. Volunteer for the committee that engages in the activities that are most important to the organisation, such as governmental affairs or fundraising. Then get fully involved in your chosen responsibilities.

You will find that the members of the key committees are usually key players in the business community as well. By joining the committee, you create an opportunity to interact with them in a completely voluntary and non-threatening way. You give them a chance to see what you can really do outside the work environment. And you contribute to the committee as a peer, not as an employee or subordinate.

Remember, in any committee, 20% of the people do 80% of the work. In any association, fully 80% of the members never volunteer for anything. All they do is attend the meetings and then go home. But this is not for you. You are determined to make your mark, and you do this by jumping wholeheartedly into voluntary activities that move the association ahead. And the key people will be watching and evaluating you. The more favourable attention you attract, the more people will be willing to help you when you need them.

Networking fulfills one of your deepest subconscious needs – getting to know people and being known by them. It broadens your perspective and opens doors of opportunity for you. It increases the number of people who know and respect you. And it can be one of the most exciting and fulfilling experiences of your life.

Brian Tracy is the most-listened-to audio author on personal and business success in the world. His talks and seminars on leadership, sales, managerial effectiveness and business strategy provide people with proven ideas and strategies that they can implement immediately for improved results.

Networking

Tips For Start-up Owners When Approaching A Networking Event

Here are a few ways in which you can approach networking.

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It’s “easy” to start a business and generate an idea you think will make a difference in the world, but unfortunately, it’s not that simple in reality. Entering the start-up world requires more than just the knowledge you’ve gained through your studies or what you’ve read up about online. Success is about putting your business, and yourself, out there and connecting with influential people at events.

If you don’t have a budget to market your business, you need to speak to the right people in order to help grow your business. For introverts, this might sound the worst idea, but if you want to attract influential people in the industry and increase your client base, you need to be your business’ own marketer.

Here are a few ways in which you can approach networking:

Build your own network of people

When you start networking, think of it as an opportunity to build your own network of influential individuals in the industry who can assist you when you need it most. Networking shouldn’t be as daunting as you make it out to be. If you believe in your idea and your employees, and you genuinely want to find the right tools to propel your business into the right direction, you need to connect and engage with people who can help you.

In the beginning stages of your startup experience, you should try to attend events to meet with other African start-ups. African tech innovation is advancing, and it’s worth your time to explore the technical space to see how you can leverage technology to succeed. If you have an interest in meeting people who could introduce you to others and vice versa, your business will flourish.

Related: The Top 10 Behaviours To Avoid When Networking

You are your own superhero

For years, it has been said that people buy from people and not adverts which is 100 percent correct. You are your biggest strength in that, if you believe in yourself and your product or service, you will be able to boost sales drastically. People are convinced by people, which is a huge part of your networking abilities and how people remember your products or services in an impressive way.

If people can see that you believe in your own business, are confident in your abilities and are trying to convince people otherwise, people will take a chance on you and put more effort into supporting you.

Always be strategic about your approach

The more you network, the more you will realise that you need to have a plan in place before you approach anyone or attend any event. A plan is crucial if you want to achieve a particular goal out of a face-to-face interaction. Before you attend an event, meet up with someone outside of the event or even speak with someone over the phone, make a list of the topics you what you want to talk about.

Events are usually jam-packed with people, and if you don’t have a purpose for your interaction, it will turn into a lost opportunity. You cannot leave without speaking to people you were interested in or without the information you need. If people are leaving in a rush, ask them for their contact details and make another plan.

Network both online and offline

If you’re putting yourself out there and attending a marketing or tech conference, also consider the online elements, for instance, LinkedIn, which you could explore. Many people believe in one or the other, but a combined approach is extremely powerful. Once you have met someone, make an effort to look them up online and follow up with a meeting request if you are interested in creating a further relationship. Your networking circle will not be complete if you aren’t making use of both offline and online networking in your community and the industry at large.

Related: Great Places To Take Your Clients When Networking

Provide more than you take

Don’t be a taker. People try and stay away from these types of people once they know who you are and feel sceptical about the interest you’re showing in them. While you might genuinely be interested in seeking advice on an innocent level, it can quickly give you a bad name if people spread their feelings about your motives. So, in order to avoid this, be willing to give. Of course, you need to limit your “free” offerings once you’ve met with someone new, but keep that opportunity open in the beginning. Show people that you’re willing to offer them information or free trials for their time. When people see that you’re not just taking what you can get your hands on, they will start to give you their attention.

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Networking

The 12 x 12 x 12 Rule For Successful Networking

If you follow the three parts of this rule carefully, you can learn to network successfully.

Brian Hilliard

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The following excerpt is from Ivan Misner, Ph.D. and Brian Hilliard’s book Networking Like a Pro. Buy it now from Amazon.

Perception is reality. How many times have you heard that saying? Probably enough to know that the way you’re perceived really does affect the business you conduct (or don’t conduct) with other people. This is especially true when it comes to networking and meeting someone for the first time, and this is where the 12 x 12 x 12 rule becomes so important.

Basically, this rule involves three questions:

  1. How do you look from 12 feet away? Do you look the part?
  2. How do you come across from 12 inches away? Does your attitude and body language reflect what they first saw?
  3. What are the first 12 words out of your mouth?

What we’re talking about is how important it is to create the right perception of yourself and your business.

Let’s face it: As a businessperson, you’ve got a lot going on. But, most prospects don’t care how much you’ve got going on or how many balls you have in the air. They just want to know if you’re a potential solution to a problem they have, and their initial perception of you goes a long way in making that determination.

The same is true for potential referral partners.

They want to know if they can trust you with their referrals – people (and sometimes clients) with whom they have a good relationship. Do you have your act together so you won’t jeopardise their good name when they refer business to you? Right or wrong, their initial perception of you is going to play a large part in answering that question.

This is precisely what the 12 x 12 x 12 rule is all about. It looks at you from the perspective of other people (prospects or referral partners) and shows you how to optimise their perception. This doesn’t mean manipulating or deceiving them; experienced people can see through that. Nor is it about checking your personality at the door. What it does mean is fine-tuning your networking practices to avoid shooting yourself in the foot.

Related: Great Places To Take Your Clients When Networking

Let’s go over the specifics of the 12 x 12 x 12 rule and how you can manage the perception others have of you.

Look the part before going to the event (How do you look from 12 feet away?)

professional-appearanceYou’d be surprised how many people fall short in the fundamental area of appearance. If it’s a chamber of commerce networking breakfast, don’t go casual. Instead, consider wearing a good suit or nice outfit. You need to be well rested and clearheaded when attending a morning networking session; make a conscious effort to get plenty of sleep the night before. If you’re not a morning person, hit the sack earlier than usual so you don’t look like the walking dead. Regardless of how many cups of coffee you’ve had, people can tell if you’re not all there.

Make sure your body language sends the right message (How do you come across from 12 inches away?)

When it comes to forming networking relationships, most of the important information – trustworthiness, friendliness, sincerity, openness — is communicated through nonverbal cues such as posture, facial expression and hand gestures. When engaging in conversation, look the other person directly in the eye and stay focused on what he’s saying. Lean a bit into the conversation rather than away from it; don’t stand rigid with your arms crossed.

When meeting someone for the first time, a lot can be said about how much your attitude can impact her first impression. Make sure that when you’re talking to others, you have a positive, upbeat attitude.

Another part of the “12 inches” away rule is making sure you know which pocket your business cards are in and having plenty on hand. Nothing screams, “One of these days I’ve got to get organised!” louder than handing a potential referral partner someone else’s card. So make sure you have some type of system for keeping your cards separate from the cards you receive at the event.

One more thing: Remember to smile when meeting someone for the first time. Studies have shown that if you smile when you talk, you seem more open and forthright. Obviously, you don’t want to go overboard with this and start grinning and shaking hands like a hyperactive clown; just show that you’re having a good time, and that will send the right message.

Related: The Top 10 Behaviours To Avoid When Networking

Make sure you’re ready to speak (What are the first 12 words out of your mouth?)

When someone asks you what you do, make sure you’re ready with a response, or unique selling proposition (USP), that’s succinct but memorable. A good USP is the offline equivalent of a good post on social media… something that promotes curiosity and engagement. The attention span of the average adult is 20 seconds; a long, drawn-out answer to the question isn’t going to work. Whatever words you choose, make sure your answer is quick and informative without sounding over-rehearsed or contrived.

Perception is reality when it comes to meeting people for the first time. If people perceive you as not being right for them, they simply won’t be inclined to refer business to you, regardless of the work you can actually do. However, by keeping the 12 x 12 x 12 rule in mind, you’ll go a long way toward creating the right impression in the blink of an eye.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Networking

Why I Never Meet Someone For Coffee

The conventional offer of “getting coffee” is, in my opinion, one of the most frustrating offers that can be made.

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First off, I need to make clear that I am not against meeting people for coffee or even drinking coffee. My issue is that I’ve learned that the offer to go get coffee usually means that somebody wants something from me. Whether it is time, money or to help them make a connection, an offer to grab a drink almost always has some ulterior motive behind it.

You might think that I flat out don’t want to help others, but the real issue is the other opportunities that I have in front of me. I have a lot on my plate, so dedicating the time to a “quick” coffee meeting does not make much sense.

Related: Starbucks Coffee Is All About Culture… For A Reason

Say no to getting coffee

Hours spent in the office doing business are not the time to sit back, relax or socialise. I try to be as efficient, effective and statistically successful as possible during work hours (and beyond). The conventional offer of “getting coffee” is, in my opinion, one of the most frustrating offers that can be made.

I rarely take anyone up on the offer to “do lunch” during work hours. Just consider the amount of time that it takes to get to and from a coffee or lunch meeting, and how much business could be done in that same time.

Then, think about the inefficiencies of utilising that time for things such as small talk, even before you get to the critical business issue.

Have an objective in mind

I have the objective to try and keep every phone call to a maximum of five minutes. When it comes to in-person meetings, I prefer them to take place at my office or overlapping other meetings I have outside the office, which I call “holding court.”

Even then, I try to keep those meetings to 20 minutes long. This allows me to fit in as many meetings or calls as possible. So many people make the excuse that they are “doing business” and then leave the office to do unimportant things, or overlap their meetings around errands.

Make no mistake, I’m not advising against meeting people in person. I’m saying take control of the business opportunity and have them come to you, or meet them somewhere convenient when you are outside of the office.

Related: 5 Ways That Coffee Affects Productivity

No coffee, just grind

The majority of lunch and coffee meetings that take place are nothing but an inefficient use of time. I would suggest not only rejecting such meetings during work hours, but to also stop asking for coffee meetings unless they’re absolutely necessary.

How do you determine whether or not a meeting is necessary? Take a look at the reasons and impacts the meeting can have. If these outweigh the potential drawbacks of an in-person meeting, then it is acceptable to ask. Make sure that you focus on making efficiency a key principle when chasing your objectives.

Stay focused in on critical business issues and you will find that focus will provide you with everything you desire in business and life.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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