Professional Networking is a skill every executive must master in order to be successful. Networking is the deliberate act of building relationships. You need to meet new people, have constructive conversations and finally gain from the whole exchange.
In order to be effective networking has to be goal-orientated. A couple of goals that we can take into consideration are:
Job Offers. It is estimated that 85% of new employment opportunities come from an existing network. This works both ways. You might need a new Salesman soon and looking at your own network to see who you already trust that fits the bill is probably going to be one of your first options.
Idea Sharing. You want insights into how a certain field functions and networking could be your gateway into a library of interesting and informative conversations.
Status. This is one of the basics of public relations. You need to be known and in order to gain that renown, you need to work a room and shake a lot of hands.
Sales. How can networking directly help out your bottom line? You should approach networking with a goal in mind. Who is your target market? Do you have that 2 min ‘Elevator Pitch’ ready to go? Although you should know and be able to quickly explain what you are all about, making connections is the goal. Don’t expect a handshake alone to make your sale. This is only the start of a long relationship that will hopefully end on that dotted line.
Networking comes in all shapes and sizes. You should be equipped to handle all three main types in order to reach your goals.
Formal Networking takes place at special networking events, usually hosted by one company. A number of different executives from different businesses are then invited to give an Elevated Pitch, shake hands, take names and mingle. You should always be prepared when attending one of these events. Have enough business cards on hand and try to find out who you would like to meet in order to reach your goals.
Informal Networking is much more social and may sometimes seem coincidental, even though it might have been planned that way all along. These are the friends of friends who may one day be beneficial to you. You meet these people at social events so remember to keep them in mind when conducting yourself. A heavy drinker makes for a good friend, but a bad investment.
Semi-formal Networking is a little something you need to arrange for yourself. Have a meeting once a month with a couple of executives from other companies. After you have gotten to know each other a bit better, perhaps after the second month, arrange that each person prepares a few leads for each other. Of course, this will take time and effort from your side, but when you arrive with three fresh new leads for Johnathan, he has also got three potential clients in his pocket for you. It is a win-win for all involved if the structure and discipline is acknowledged by all involved.