We always find the time and energy to do the things we like, perceive as important, or care about strongly. Certainly we perceive the importance of networking when it comes to increasing our visibility, accelerating our careers or building a business. Yet many people don’t give it sufficient time or energy to generate the results they seek. They approach it as a stand alone exercise, going through the motions and randomly collecting names or business cards.
Contrary to common belief, networking is not a numbers game it’s about building relationships. Before someone will refer you, you need to establish trust, demonstrate expertise, and offer value. Networking is a process, not an event. It works best when you prepare, making deliberate choices about where and with whom you will network and what you expect to offer and receive. Without planning, we don’t connect with the right people for the right reasons, and waste valuable effort.
Consider this: Time is equal for all. Every unit we trade is either wasted, sold or invested. In business and in life, we prepare for what we buy and sell. The 4 Ps below will give your time that same consideration, transforming networking into something you long to do – not something you have to do!
- Purpose – Create focus and purposeful action by recognizing why you should invest valuable resources in networking. Start a list of how networking can contribute to your career or business and serve your highest values. You will know you’ve listed enough points when you realize that you’re on fire about networking and can’t wait to start!
- Plan – Once you are clear on your purpose, set goals and create a roadmap of the steps you will take to achieve them. Set stretch goals for networking, both long-term and for each event. The goals may be meeting someone in a particular industry or with specific skills that complement yours. Clear goals will give you a framework for deciding what events or associations are aligned with your purpose and will improve your networking’s return on investment. When calculating ROI, always consider your time, travel, and opportunity cost.
- Place Define your target audience, the people who will offer the best return for your time: Who is your ideal contact? What do they do? What are their interests? Where and with whom do they spend their time? How do they research and shop for products or services? Again, do your thinking on paper. When you can write that profile on the back of a business card, you will be clear and focused and ready to determine the ideal places to invest your networking efforts.
- Presentation Just as you can describe your ideal contact on the back of a business card, you will have to present yourself with the same brevity and clarity. When planning your personal introduction, your goal is to deliver information another person or group will be interested in and will want to pass on. Tell people why you add value, not just what you do. For example, “I am a financial planner; I help people plan for their future.”
Applied properly, the 4 Ps of networking will help you stay focused, make mindful decisions and develop the opportunities you seek. Be selective and systematic in developing your relationships because when you succeed in connecting really connecting with the one you connect with the many, generating growth and opportunities where and when you least expect them.