One item that’s always part of my sales strategy is the building and nurturing of my professional network.
Our professional networks are critical, whether we’re in leadership or on the sales front lines. No matter your title, building relationships is in the description, and it should be part of your regular development planning. Anywhere from 5 – 10% of your week should be dedicated to building relationships. If you’re used to being too busy, heads down in your work, or always eating lunch at your desk, it’s time to take a different view.
As I reflect at my own experience, networking has helped me advance my career, expand my knowledge and drive new business. More than a decade ago, when I made the transition from technology sales to business entrepreneur, I learned a tough lesson early on.
My professional network was in need of some reinforcement, and fast. In a new industry, I knew no one. And no one knew me… yet. But after a short time, I was able to grow a business during a recession, landed awards, and created a strategic training relationship with a best-selling author. How did I do it? By developing a thriving network of trusted relationships.
If networking is so vital to business development, our careers, and leadership legacy, why do so many of us avoid it or not make it a priority? Research shows that one in four professionals don’t network at all, and 41% of networkers want to network more frequently but say they don’t have enough time. (Source: Hubspot.)
In this article, I share a few ways I’ve successfully cultivated my professional network and built long-lasting, strategic relationships.
- Use social media with the goal of taking key relationships offline. LinkedIn and Twitter are my main social media outlets. But with so many connections and followers, it’s impossible to create meaningful relationships with everyone, and nor would you want to. Select one or two people a month, and make an effort to continue the conversation offline. It’s usually a quick phone call if there’s distance involved. Or if they are local, meet for lunch or at an event.
- Be sure to balance your networking strategy between in-person and online communication.You can start building a relationship online and move the relationship offline. Or, you can reverse the strategy. The ability to form a professional relationship beyond your online presence is invaluable. Nothing is more important than an engaging conversation and a firm handshake. Once you have established that relationship, balance your communication with online and offline strategies.
- Actively volunteer in a key industry organization. Be selective in the groups you join, and then get involved! Being an active member helps you build better relationships and a higher profile. Find the membership or programs director for the group, and introduce yourself – that person will help you find strategic opportunities that are a fit for your skills and goals.
- Develop a keep-in-touch strategy. Keeping in touch is vital. First, it keeps momentum up and allows you to build better relationships. Second, most people just aren’t doing it, so you will stand out. The best keep in touch strategy utilizes technology with a personal touch. A tip here is to create something of value on a regular basis and communicate with your audience. This ImpactInsights blog is a perfect example of a keep-in-touch strategy. Or it could be something as simple as posting a timely discussion question within your social networks.
- Build relationships before you need them. You’ve heard the saying that if you need a relationship, it’s usually too late to build it. It’s often why people end up feeling as though they’re being insincere, because continual relationship building isn’t a habit built into their everyday life. When you have the mindset that relationship building is an everyday part of your learning and leadership development, you’ll likely never fall into that trap.
Ready to learn more? Download my ebook, 36 Tips to Build Lasting, Strategic Relationships. Or watch this short video with a simple formula for building strategic relationships.