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Commentary: The Power of effective networking

Commentary: The Power of effective networking
August 30
10:49 2018

By Algenon Cash

Most of us are familiar with the concept of networking, and if you’re not, then please read one of the thousand books that are devoted to the subject. 

In fact, a good friend of mine wrote a networking book for Southerners called “Networking in the South.”  My friend believed the principles for “networking in the South” was fundamentally different than any other area of the country, so he highlights those facts in the book utilizing funny stories.

Daily, we hear about events that are specifically designed to help us connect with one another.  These types of events are required to get us to slow down, show up at a central location and help us to focus on others.

With all of the books, speeches, and events dedicated to this vague but powerful concept, I started to wonder what new insight I can offer in this article to help you network more effectively.  I attempted to brainstorm some neat technique that could help you remember a person’s name or maybe I could share the Top 10 ways to be a master networker.

Unfortunately, our society craves instant gratification.  We want to see results right away with any endeavor that we involve ourselves.  Networking is not a concept that produces instant results, but instead it takes passion, persistence, and patience.  The idea that networking is the key to achieving successful outcomes is a myth, but instead networking is a tool that belongs in a much larger strategy to reach the successful outcomes that you desire.  The strategy that you must understand to reach success is the concept of relationship building.

The technical definition of “networking” is a supportive system of sharing information and services among individuals and groups having a common interest.  Your network is your sphere of influence or the connections that you have built with those who might be like-minded and some that are often not like-minded. 

However, we often miss the critical step, which is to convert those like-minded “connections” to “relationships.”  What is the difference between them?  Connections are superficial, but relationships are deep.  Connections have “heard” about you, but relationships “know” you and can speak up on your behalf.  You invest time and sow with connections, but you actually reap and harvest a return from relationships.

I have built an incredible enterprise and overall brand on the fundamental idea that people want to work with people they have a relationship with.

Here are some basic concepts on how to unleash the power of networking.

1. Always be genuine.  Networking is about building trust and relationships, so that requires you to be authentic and genuine, not to mention focused on seeing how you can help others.

2. Establish goals upfront.  When you consider joining networking groups or attending networking events – know what your goals are.  Some events are based on learning, while others may be about making contacts, and/or serving the community rather than making business connections.

3. Ask open-ended questions.  This means questions that ask who, what, where, when and how as opposed to those that can be answered with a simple yes or no.  This method of questioning allows the discussion to open up and demonstrate to the other person that you are interested in them.

4. Become a thought leader.  When others recognize you as a strong resource, more people will seek you out for suggestions, ideas, names of other people and etc.  Likewise this will keep you visible in the community.

5. Know what you are looking for and how others may help.  Too often I get in a conversation and I ask, “how may I help you?” and no immediate answers come to their mind.

6. Follow-up, follow-up and follow-up.  When you receive a referral from a networking connection, follow through quickly and effectively.  Your actions are a reflection on the person who gave you the new contact, so always respect and honor that – your referrals will grow exponentially. Also don’t forget to express your appreciation when you meet new people, send them a quick note requesting to get together, share ideas, and learn more about one another.

Algenon Cash is a nationally recognized speaker and the managing director of Wharton Gladden & Company, an investment banking firm. Reach him at acash@nullalgenoncash.com.

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