By Gail Stolzenburg
In his famous book on business management, “First Things First”, Dr. Stephen Covey teaches about focusing on the most important action items first. He does that with a demonstration in which a glass is filled with water, sand, gravel, and big rocks. If you attempt to put the water, sand, and gravel in the glass first, there is no room for the big rocks. If you put the big rocks in first, there is plenty of room for the gravel, sand, and water. Most people would agree that the big rocks for success are business networking leadership strategies. Everything else such as the to do list which is like the gravel, the challenges which are like the sand, and the personal activities which is like the water can fill in around the networking leadership strategies or actions.
In networking leadership, like other areas of business, the knowledge is generally present but the biggest problem is the failure to implement. You may have heard that it’s not about who you know, what you know, or who knows you; it is about what you know about them and what they know about you. It is also about how you develop that information into a strategic alliance. “A robust leadership network helps provide access to people, information, and resources,” says Curt Grayson, author of Leadership Networking: Connect, Collaborate, Create. “It goes beyond knowing or linking to lots of different people. It is about being able to use those connections wisely to solve problems and create opportunities.”
Here are six key steps for your networking leadership success:
- Expand your network to include contacts who may never do business with you but when you develop a relationship with them are willing to make introductions for you and even refer business to you. Meeting business owners with common target markets is important but it is equally important to have diversity in your business relationships.
- Communicate regularly with your customers, collaborators, and referral sources. The fortune is in the follow up. If it has been six months since they have heard from you, they have forgotten about you. Face-to-face is always best but time-consuming phone calls are great but most people play a lot of “phone tag” and only one out of 17 emails is read so what is becoming most effective is texting. Rather than making every contact a sales call, use if to celebrate birthdays, holidays, accomplishments, or just to say thank you.
- Focus on helping. People may never remember what you say but they will always remember how you made them feel. Relationship building is all about the experience. That’s why people will stand in line and pay more for the same products they could get almost anywhere else such as Starbucks, for example. Sharing your resources with others is one of the best ways to build business relationships.
- Utilize automation. Automation is never about relaxing, slowing down, or taking it easy. It is about using tools to accomplish tasks to reduce people’s time such as social media posts, blogging, podcasts, etc. However, being “high touch” is as important at “high tech”. Most experts suggest the ratio for social media posts be based on five posts for education or celebration to every one post for marketing your products or services.
- Schedule networking time. Leadership guru, John C. Maxwell recommends action steps be completed every day, like reading and writing, physical and mental activities, family time, mentoring, and of course, networking with friends, business associates, clients, referral sources, and potential customers. Set a goal to make two new friends every day.
- The term “word-of-mouth advertising” has been replaced with a more descriptive term “relationship marketing” If you asked most people what they think about when they hear that term, they would probably say, “marketing”. The most successful entrepreneurs spend 70 to 80 percent of their time on “relationships” and 20 to 30 percent of their time on “marketing”. And, they teach the people in their organization to use the same philosophy.
Gail “The Connector” Stolzenburg’s new book, “CONNECTIONS: Contacts to Clients”, was just released. For more information, Gail can be contacted by phone at 281-493-1955, by email at Gail@GailStolzenburg.com, or visit his website at www.GailStolzenburg.com