While I am a true believer in continually nurturing and building our relationshipsnot just when we're experiencing tough timestoday's challenging business environment underscores the need to consistently put your energy and strategies into the fine art of networking.
The relationships we continually build and nurture with people over time are the ones that are there for us no matter whatbecause we have been there for them. Even though we live in a high-tech world, we need to think in terms of "high touch." Ask yourself: "How often do I touch base, to say hello or thank you, to my clients/customers/advocates/friends? What actions can I take to stay on their radar screens?"
Be creative as you think of ways to take care of the people with whom you have worked hard to build trust and advocacy. This goes back to delivering the type of service and value that is priceless. It is going the extra mile and taking the "high road" as I like to call it. (There is less traffic there anyway!)
Follow my simple "I.N.C.E.N.T.I.V.E" system, outlined below, to create your own "networking everyday life model" to continual success.
I: Be truly Interested in others. Do this with sincerity and Integrity. Nobody likes a phony. One tool I use a lot is Google Alerts, which I set up for people I want to be able to touch base with often. This allows me to monitor ideas and interests that pertain to them. When you receive a Google Alert about one of your contacts you will stay "in the know" and can drop them a note or call with information and news of interest to them.
N: Nurture your relationships through knowledge acquired over time. I have a list of many topics that I use to get to know people. Here are a few that help me stay connected and reach out with an article, thought, suggestion, or idea that people might find of interest:
- Favorite foods/restaurants
- Vacation spots
- School alumni
- Special holidays
- Job promotions/moves
- Whom you refer them to
- Whom they refer you to
- How you met
- Professional Organizations
- Understanding what motivates them
- Knowing what their concerns are in business
- Knowing what keeps them up at night and how you might help them
C: Connect and communicate in an ongoing waynot just when you want somethingbut much more important, to provide news, insight, and advice or to just provide a sympathetic ear. Continually create value for your relationships. Be clear and connect with them in the way they prefer (i.e., e-mail, text, phone, etc.). I always ask my contacts, "What is your preferred method of communication?" This shows that you are really listening to them, which too often is a forgotten art.
E: Execute. Quite simply, do what you say you will do. Too often, after all is said and done, much more is said then done. Under-promise and over-deliver. Take the time to follow up on everything that you say you will do and surprise and delight people by doing so. I always make a list to be sure that no matter what, I follow up with everyone and deliver what I have promised.
N: Network! To me the word "network" is huge and means many things. I say that "networking" is part of the "S" factor: sometimes it is strategic and structured for the events you attendso be prepared. Most of life, however, is serendipitous networking, so you must be ready for every opportunity to meet, connect, reconnect, and help someone else. Everywhere and every day we meet people who can give us information that will be of interest to one of our contacts or trusted advisors or advocates. So keep your eyes and ears open and also be sure to continually Nurture your relationships. I can't emphasize this enough.
T: Trust is the key to any relationship in good and bad times. Work hard to continually build trust with your relationships, which takes Time. Talk less and listen more; you'll learn a lot. Remember, we have two ears, but only one mouth! Do your homework and research consistently, so that when you do speak, you'll be able to offer a suggestion or helpful bit of advice.
I: Take the Initiative to reach out and connect with people. If we wait for someone to call or e-mail or meet with us, we might wait a long time. Of course as we build and develop these relationships, true Integrity is key. My Dad always said, "With integrity nothing else matters and without integrity, nothing else matters." I live by this credoand it is so true.
V: Continually create Value with those in your life. What are you delivering to them that makes you stand out? Also Value relationships with people who have given and continue to provide support to you. Make sure you let those people know how important they are to you. Be Visible and make sure they can easily find you so you will be there when they need you.
E: Energy and Enthusiasm are essential keys to continually building relationships that last. Take care of yourself so your energy can remain high. Plan and prepare for each day by setting goals and by measuring how well you attain them. One way I do this is to set a specific goal each day for different clients or relationships. Something as simple as calling three extra people with a message of goodwill or a piece of information, sending three extra e-mails with the same type of message and, I'm a big believer in pulling out pen and paper to write a short note of thanks, a greeting of hello, or a simple "thinking of you" message.
Live life with a "networking eye and ear" and more opportunities will present themselves to you, I promise. You'll find that the more you give to others, as you incorporate the "everyday networking model" into your life, the more successful you will become.