Having a strong network and being an active contributor demonstrates your value as a business leader. In addition, being well-connected makes you a more important resource within your company and in your specialized field.
Through this interaction, you get insider information that puts you ahead of the competition, gain introductions to the right contacts from a friend of a friend, and continuously expand your business perspective by learning through others.
Some of your most valuable leads will come through your network.
Did you get a tip about a great sales candidate for your team who was starting to think about making a change?
Maybe a contact made during an industry association meeting referred your last big client.
Why do so few revenue-contributing professionals have a strong network when the rewards are great?
I have observed that most people focus on short-term, lead generating networking. They don’t realize they are missing out on significant opportunities by not taking the time to develop and nurture a broader-scale network that pays off in the long-term.
The secret to building a successful network is to make networking your way of life. It’s a career-long investment.
In my Fractional VP Sales role, one of the core areas I focus on is helping sellers understand how to maximize filling their sales pipeline.
While the digital age has opened new methods for lead generation, for most industries, there is no substitute for interacting and engaging with people for mutual benefit… otherwise known as NETWORKING.
In this article, I’ll share the benefits of expanding your networking scope and managing your various network segments differently to maximize the return on your time investment.
Develop Broad Network Segments
First, you must build a broad-scale network by tapping into all the relationships you have developed in various areas and phases of your life.
Here is a list of network segments to get you started…
- Co-workers and customers from current and previous positions
- Present and past industry association relationships
- Referral Partners established in various industries throughout your career
- Recognized trail blazer leaders in your business and personal life
- Vendors and Service Providers in professional and personal life
- Contacts through volunteer and non-profit group involvement
- Primary and extended family contacts
- Contacts made through your children’s activities
- School, college, and university alma mater classmates
- …the list could go on-and-on!
You need to provide value to these contacts, so they see benefit in following you on social media platforms and taking the time to read what you share
The key in all networking is that you enter the relationship with an investment mindset and a genuine desire to help your contacts with the problems they are facing today. It’s about putting them first with a servant leadership approach.
This generates trust and, over time, will likely grant you the opportunity to interact with these people more to demonstrate your value as an expert. The more you give, the more you will find these connections reaching out to help you when the time is right.
Nurture Network Segments Differently
Next, you need to develop a plan for nurturing your network to stay top-of-mind. It’s important to recognize that all contacts are valuable, even if they are not tightly aligned with your industry.
I can’t tell you how many times a contact from the past has surfaced out of the blue with a helping hand, a client lead, or inquiry that has helped another member in my network.
You want to be intentional about investing 1-to-1 time to develop certain network segments that have potential of becoming lead reciprocating relationships.
For example, I give special attention to my Referral Partner networking segment. In my business, these contacts provide complementary services to my target market at the same buyer persona level and in the same geographic footprint.
These are contacts I recognize have the potential to become helpful resources in the Business Ecosystem I maintain to wholistically serve my clients.
In a prior article I wrote, “Is the Time You Spend Networking Paying Off?”, I outlined methods I’ve found that enable the Referral Partner network segment to reach its potential more quickly.
Make Networking Your Lifestyle
There are many time demands on top executives, sales leaders and salespeople. This is the common objection I hear for why these revenue-focused professionals don’t get around to networking or don’t do nearly enough of it.
The key to becoming a well-connected networker doesn’t happen overnight. It needs to be a consistent, manageable focus applied to the normal course of business while also naturally spilling into one’s personal life.
It’s about always keeping your eyes open for an opportunity to make a new connection, even in the places you wouldn’t expect it. The instant you can build trust through an impromptu conversation, it’s the best lead you could ever get.
Another one of my techniques is investing time to find out where my customers are hanging out. Engaging in LinkedIn online groups or local industry association chapter meetings that my customers frequent gives me an opening to show how I can be of value to them.
The result of applying this mindset to your professional and personal life is that you have a continuous business development engine running. You are forever showing your value to a widening group of people, and eventually, someone’s friend, associate, or family member will need what you have shown you are an expert at.
Focus on Relaying Value, Not Product Peddling
On social media, it’s easy to get lost in the noise. Every day the high-impact contacts you are looking to connect with are being spammed by competitors or other industry-related offers.
A well thought out cookie cutter message to targeted contacts might get you an accepted LinkedIn connection, but that’s it. Instead, take some time to research your target. Understand their challenges and find ways you can help without selling to them.
Your objective is to stimulate interactive communication with new contacts by reaching out to them with intentionality that reflects why you want to connect.
Ultimately, your objective is that preliminary correspondence elevates to voice-to-voice contact so a meaningful relationship can be built.
You must find a way to relay value in every interaction with your networking targets. If your initial thoughtful, helpful message does spark a conversation, make sure you go beyond surface-level stuff. Ask questions. Dig deeper.
You need to be more than a product peddler to your connections on LinkedIn and other social platforms. If you connect and instantly start asking for a quick 15-minute phone call to discuss your product, they likely won’t respond… ever.
Creating and nurturing a strong network is a career-long process. The time to get started is now!
It won’t be often that you’ll generate a new closed contract in 90 days through networking, but the ROI from your time commitment will pay dividends in tangible ways in the short-term and long-term.
Representing yourself as a resource and building a strong network are essential to success in the modern business world. And remember…
- Some of your most valuable leads will come from your network
- Develop a broad-scale network that incorporates all aspects of your life
- Invest time to nurture your network to stay top-of-mind
- Help contacts solve their challenges to stimulate communication
- Make networking your way of life
If you need help guiding your revenue-generating resources to become more effective networkers, don’t hesitate to reach out. As I hope this article has demonstrated, I am sincerely here to help!
You may contact me through any of these methods: (773) 203-7086 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am part of a national group of Senior Sales Leaders who collaborate to share insights like the examples shown in this article. We formed because of our shared passion to help business leaders exponentially grow their revenue.