Updated: Jan 21, 2020
‘Stop Selling. Start Helping.’- Zig Ziglar
We live in a world where it has never been easier to stay connected, so developing the habit of becoming a value-added networker is critically important as you build your career, family and business. There is truly not enough time to learn all the skills, access all the resources, gain all the insights and make all the mistakes necessary to achieve our goals. There is not enough runway, so we need the help and co-operation of others. The people who will help us most are the ones who stand to gain or benefit from our own experiences; they will help us along the way in direct proportion to the amount of help we can provide them. This in its simplest form is the value-added network.
A network is not a group of people sitting on standby for your call so that they can help you. It is the collective experience of the people around you who are looking to gain from their association with you. Building a great network starts with mindset. Every day, think about what you can do to improve your networking skills and network. It needs to be on your mind during all your regular interactions throughout the day.
Focus on what you can do for people, not what people can do for you, and how you can both benefit from the interaction. You need to provide value to your network, even if it’s simply calling to say hello or to get to know someone better. Or perhaps it’s to provide a small amount of information, connect in some way, or help them and their family. Whatever it is, every interaction has to make that person connect with you in a slightly stronger way, and by making him or her a little bit better he or she will be happy to return it to you tenfold.
You need to have the mechanics in place. Keep a system which organizes all the people in your network, and then use that system to call people, not when you need them, but when you don’t need them. Call or connect with people frequently. You should be calling the key contacts in your network once a year, even if it is to wish them a Happy Birthday, Merry Christmas, or a good start to the year. Treat each person you meet as a potential addition to your network. If you feel that you have mutual interest, then add him or her to your database, and make a point of connecting more regularly.
There are many great references on how to network. My favorite is Never Eat Alone (Crown Publishing Group, 2005) by Ken Ferazzi and Tahl Raz.
If you do these things you will build a valuable network over your lifetime; a network that will be there on the days you do need it. Maintain the mindset that it’s important to connect with people in meaningful, lasting ways. Don’t hesitate a moment – start today!