A network of viable contacts is critical in today’s competitive business climate. Your network serves not only as lead sources for new business, but also as a sounding board, support system, cheerleader, news source and industry expert. Your network is the “circle of influence” that will guide you through your career, if carefully planned and managed.
As you begin to build or enhance your network of contacts, consider that everyone you meet will potentially enter your network in one of many possible ways. Below I’ve indicated the categories of contacts you will have, and who fits in which group. Nurturing and mining those contacts becomes easier as you understand their inherent value to your network.
In every case, for every category, certain strategies will always ring true:
- Reciprocate. For every favor you ask, be sure to return with something of greater perceived value. The scales should always be tipped in your contact’s favor.
- Be a resource. Find ways to help your contacts. Send news clippings or articles of relevance. Refer a colleague. Be seen as a resourceful person.
- Know their business, and be sure they know yours. Let your contacts know how they can help (based on the category you’ve assigned them.) It is always easier to help someone if they are clear about what they need and want!
- Be authentic. When you are genuine, people want to get to know you and help you. Most businesspeople can detect insincerity a mile away!
Lead Generators – Contacts who can provide you direct leads, direct work or bridge you to contacts who can.
Information – Contacts who can provide valuable insight into companies, industries, trends and people about whom you need to know.
Cheerleader – Contacts who will provide references, testimonials, and will vouch for you. Contacts who will give you support and encouragement.