Networking Do’s and Don’ts

In sales, it’s often said that it’s not what you know…. but more importantly it’s who you know. Networking is a core attribute for many great sales professionals and the power of networking has only been amplified by the explosive growth of social media. Recently Acquirent conducted a training around the concept of networking. We asked the human version of LinkedIn, Joe Flanagan, to speak on the topic of networking and how it has impacted his life, both business and personal. Read on for a few of our favorite “nuggets” when it comes to the do’s and don’ts of networking:

Networking Do’s

Lead with a Mindset of “How Can I Help” – Many sales professionals look at networking solely in light of what they can get or how much they can sell. The great sales professionals look at networking in another light; they look at what they can do to help or give with no expectation of receiving anything in return. When you take that mindset, you will be amazed at the rewards that come back to you in the long run.

Be Genuine! – People aren’t stupid and can typically sniff out insincere efforts to help. If you’re going to implement networking in your arsenal, be genuine in your attempts!

Start Early (in Your Career) and Often – Many young sales professionals say: “my network is small” or “I will start building my network when I am more established”. Joe made a great analogy to a phenomenal business book by Jim Collins called Good to Great. In Jim’s book he discussed a concept he calls the “fly wheel.” The idea is that it takes great force and repetition to initially get the fly wheel to move, but once it gets going its own momentum propel itself. Joe says the same goes for networking, so better start early.

Get Involved in Associations and/or Causes that Interest You – When you get involved with a cause or an association that you are passionate about, the networking thing just happens naturally. Just like exercising, if you’re doing something you love (i.e. playing basketball, running a race, etc.) it doesn’t seem like work.

Surround Yourself With Winners! – Winners surround themselves with other winners (and there is a flip side to this as well). If you believe you are a “winner”, make sure you surround yourself with other winners.

Now that the Do’s of networking are done, the following is a list of networking Don’ts to watch out for:

Networking Don’ts

Start Networking When You Need Something (like a job) – This one is funny, how often do you see someone on LinkedIn go from irrelevant to rock star status (i.e. new professional photo, connection/recommendation request flurries, etc.) overnight? The first thing I think of when I see that is “well it looks like he/she is looking for a job.” Keep your networking efforts consistent and good things will happen naturally.

Force Connections – Don’t be that guy/girl that walks into a room and starts handing out your business cards (or randomly tossing out LinkedIn requests) with no basis for a connection. These are the same people that go in with the idea of what can I sell/get out of my connections with no intention of ever helping. This is the wrong way to think about networking.

Make Empty Promises… If You Can’t Fulfill, Learn How to Say No! – While networking, people may go in with the best intentions but occasionally have a hard time delivering on their promises. It feels great to help others and many will jump at the chance, but if you can’t fulfil the request it will come back and bite you. You are better off saying “no” (with an explanation on why you can’t help) rather than promising something and coming up short.

Expect Networking to be Quick – Proper networking takes time (think Jim Collins’ Fly Wheel) and there is no quick fix. If you are looking for things to happen overnight, you are going to be sadly disappointed.

I hope these do’s and don’ts of networking are helpful. Once again, networking takes time and doesn’t happen overnight. That said, if you go in with the proper mindset of “how can I help” and not “what will I get” you will position yourself to benefit from your efforts for years to come.

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