It’s so true that your network is my most valuable asset — when done right, your network is your support group, your pension, your next level of business, and your safety net all in one.
But so many people come at the concept of networking thinking about what they can get out of it. And fair enough, no one’s asking you to be a doormat and just constantly serve other people!
But the big secret that they’re missing out on is that to build that network that will put money in your pocket, help you when you’re at your lowest, and make sure that you succeed, you first have to give. A LOT. And what’s more, you have to give in the right way.
How to give
It’s not enough just to give people lovely gifts or drop them a friendly email now and again. You need to tangibly add value to their life in a personal way. This doesn’t have to be some grand, sweeping gesture — it could be as small as a little get well package if you read on Facebook that they’re feeling poorly. Or it could be something that’s really big for them but small for you, like introducing an unknown graphic designer to your friend who happens to run a huge company. Of course, a big gesture can be good too…but small, authentic gestures go a long way.
The other key to this is that you have to be consistent. Everyone can tell when someone’s trying to butter them up as part of the build up to asking for something, but if you keep making those gives with no expectation of return over time, you’ll build up a great relationship.
How to make the ask
When it finally does come time to make an ask from someone, it’s really important that you do it right — otherwise you could end up throwing all of your hard work (not to mention the relationship!) in the bin.
So when you ask, first make sure that
1. It’s something they can do
2. There’s a benefit in it for them as well
3. You make it as easy as possible for them to say yes.
The first one is obvious — if they can’t help you, they can’t help you and you’ll have wasted an ask. You also need to make sure that there’s a benefit in it for them, whether that’s a financial benefit if you’re asking someone to be an affiliate for you, or something like a relational benefit of you making an industry connection.
Finally, make it as easy as possible for them to say yes — spell out exactly what it is you’re asking from them, exactly what you’re prepared to give in response, and exactly what they need to do next.
So tell us now: what's your best piece of 'networking' advice?