Consider for a moment that your network is like your relationship bank account. And, those relationships that you’re cultivating are building on your relationship capital.
If you have a network that regularly sends you quality referrals, you can call any one of them (and they’ll take your call), and you keep each other in mind for opportunities for both business and fun, then congratulations! You have a well-run networking system.
However, if you can’t remember the last time someone sent you a referral or can’t remember the name of the person you just met at your networking luncheon, you may be missing something, like a networking strategy, a referral system, or an intentional process to nurture those relationships.
Recently, I spoke at the American Society of Association Executives Conference. ASAE represents more than 21,000 association executives and industry partners representing more than 9,300 organizations.
In my Next-Level Networking session, we discussed ways to audit and align their network strategy. One of the key elements in aligning is to identify your top three goals.
Here’s why it’s important to keep your goals top of mind when networking. Consider the average number of hours each week you invest in networking. Now, take the average number of hours you spend networking each week and multiple it by 52 weeks.
What’s the number of hours each year you spend in networking? If you spend that much of your valuable time in an activity, what’s your desired outcome?
There is a common mistake business leaders make when they network. You may even be making it. This simple oversight is causing you to miss out on a major opportunity that can make or break you achieving your goals.
What is the opportunity you are missing?
When your networking colleague turns to you and says, “Let me know how I can help you.” Then, you say, “thank you, I’ll let you know” and turn to leave.
I see it happen frequently. It’s like someone just wanted to make a deposit into your relationship bank account and you said no thanks and walked away. The reality is you likely don’t circle back with them.
That’s opportunity slipping through your fingers.
Instead, the next time someone asks how they can help you, be prepared to take them up on their offer.
First, identify your top three goals. Then, create your request that is in alignment with achieving one of your top goals.
You might ask them to share an upcoming event with their social media community, introduce you to someone you’ve been trying to connect with to create a mutually-beneficial relationship, or introduce you to a professional speaker to talk at your upcoming membership drive or fundraiser.
Notice that none of these examples directly asked for clients. That request lands awkward. Instead, create a request that forwards your goals.
When they follow through on that offer, reciprocate or send a thank you card. A simple thank you card is an often forgotten, but highly-regarded gesture sure to leave a good impression.