We all know that people buy from people they know and people they like. We also know that people send business to people they know and people they like. Having a strong network of people who can help you and who you can help is a valuable asset that many salespeople neglect to develop.
One thing I have always regretted is that I didn’t build a strong personal network of people who would be of value to me over the life of my business career. A long-term personal business network doesn’t just happen; it must be created, cultivated, and nurtured.
Here are some hints and tips on building your business network.
Building a Network
In the process of building your personal network, watch out for users and abusers. These are the people who tout their contacts and sources, promise you introductions, and after you’ve delivered the goods a few times, they’re too busy or forget to make good on their commitments to you.
An easy way to spot these people is to pay particular attention to their behaviour as opposed to listening to their words. If their behaviour is not congruent with their words, close the file on them quickly and get on with finding new resources.
Here are the types of people you should be adding to your personal network. As you read through the list, jot down the names of people who either are, or should be, in each category. These are the people with whom you want to cultivate a mutually beneficial relationship.
You can also use this list to see where you fit into someone else’s personal network. For example, you might be a “Mentor” to someone who is one of your “Cornerstones.”
Cornerstones – People who form the foundation of your network and are necessary for your business, such as efficient and effective secretaries, competent administrative assistants, and reliable, trustworthy partners.
Internal Experts – People in your organization whose talents and expertise you rely on for data, research, factual statistics and information.
External Experts – People in your field who you respect, admire, and value as professional contacts and would easily recommend to others because of their integrity, reliability, and professional competence.
Related Experts – Same as above except in related fields and who you might use to help get your job done, or who could help your clients and prospects get their job done better. People like lawyers, accountants, printers, insurance specialists, technical resources, etc.
Mentors – People who can help guide your career or business by providing opportunities to learn the ropes with a minimal amount of pain. People who will provide a forum for brainstorming and problem solving and will also give you access to their power sources.
Role Models – People whose success, achievements and professional behaviour stimulate your own creative juices. They are the examples you want to emulate.
Power Sources – Those clients, prospects or friends who refer you to additional sources of information and connections. They get you qualified introductions.
Business Alliances – People in business who advise you of opportunities, encourage and promote your visibility to other businesses and with whom you work closely. (They could also fit into other previous categories.)
Challengers – People you trust who will not “yes” you to death. They will question you and test you to go the distance. They will give you opportunities to look inside and find your own direction and face some important questions about your own life. While reminding you that you are a “10,” they will press you to improve your role performance, while supporting you positively along the way.
You’ll find many of these people within your own business community. Some will come from outside this community, from your family circle for instance.
Nurture With Care
And when you find them, value and nurture them. Find out what is important to them and do your best to be of value to them. Remember, what goes around comes around. The more you help others, the more they will be inclined to help and be of value to you.
Be faithful to the members of your network and work hard to gain and deserve their trust. Do this in a spirit of unselfish cooperation and you’ll build a strong business network that will always be there when you need them.
They will become one of the pillars of your long-term business success.