Friday, June 5, 2009

But would they take your call?

I received some outstanding coaching many years back that “the time you need a strong professional network is not the time to start networking.” While I am a very outgoing and gregarious individual, I have never been much for meaningless conversation. It took me a few years to understand that the strongest network relationships were built from professional business dealings, by taking a genuine interest in individuals and a quest to really help others.

Over the last few months, I have tested the strength of my network and was surprisingly pleased. I had a simple litmus test that proved overwhelmingly successful. When I called for absolutely no apparent reason, in today’s economy, with no current active business, did they take my call. I was pleasantly surprised to find the “old school” way I was taught to do business paid off handsomely. This made me step back and think for a moment about what it was I had actually done for so many years. It was not magic, but it was constant and consistent. Here are some simple examples:

• Care about others as much as yourself.
• Care a lot about both sides of “the deal” you are negotiating.
• Stand up for your supplier/customer inside your company when appropriate.
• When you read something that will interest a colleague, send it to them.
• Always make time to visit when you are on someone else’s location.
• Make time accept a colleague visiting your location.
• When someone calls and you don’t know the answer, recommend someone who may help.
• Speak at events that assist them fulfilling their obligations.

This is so simple you may not believe it could work, but I have been doing these little acts daily for many years. I am fortunate to be in a life-changing opportunity that only became available based on my personal and professional network.

What small tips or tools for network building would you add to this list?


Dan de la Cruz said...

May I add, try to keep in touch, at least once a year, more often if you can. Like you said it can be just sending information that would be interesting for them.

Great post, sir!

Brian Kelly said...

You are so right John, so right. A great reminder for me, and maybe for many of us. We need to step back away a bit... stop taking ourselves and our burning mission so serious... enjoy the people we share this world with. That would include those internal to our project and our company, and external tangents to same... but also those who have nothing whatsoever to do with our career. Its a "makeover" with unlimited payoff within a multitude of dimension!

Hal Hughes said...

This is an excellent article. I found out that when I became more interested in helping others, my number of contacts increased which resulted in an increase in my business oppertunities.

Anupama Waje said...

This is an excellent article sir....

Drew Preston said...

Good stuff,
Give of yourself and you will receive!
We are often way to busy trying to get that we neglect the giving (and caring ) part of the equation.
Appreciate the reminder!

Mark Juron said...

Whether in life or business the much of what we learned we really did learn in kindergarten....

He is another great document

Alex Kersha said...

These are great tips on not just maintaining a network but also on more effectively closing sales. I would venture a guess that the executive salespeople out there would have a plethora of tips on this topic.

Personally, I take the tact that clients aren't just clients but friends in the making. If you treat people with respect, interest and cordiality it is remembered far longer than a 15% discount on some product.

I would argue favourably that your litmus test is spot on and very relevant. Great post, thank you for sharing it.

Alex Kersha

Sanjay Grover said...

This abnonimus article has helped to revamp and revive lost zest in my team of over 500 people. Their response time towards their customer has effectively increased.

Uday Deshpande said...

Mark - great link.
John - a thought provoking idea - in the end though, technical skills get you a job, interpersonal skills help you keep it (mostly :-)).

Herb Leisenfelder said...

This is good stuff; thank you for posting it. Particularly, I liked the part about standing up for your suppliers. I think keeping your suppliers happy is just as important as keeping your customers happy. A good relationship with them can save or, a bad relationship with them can scuttle projects.

Lynn Marie Caissie said...

A lot of networking is really net-giving. Amazing how it all comes back in the most surprising and unexpected ways.

Great list. I'll bring it to the next networking group event I'm hosting.


James Link said...

Another article with solid information - keep them coming John and thanks

Anthony Etherton said...

You can only screw the world so much before it screws you back. Give of yourself, your time, experience and passion... it's the only thing worth doing.

SISO or Stuff In, Stuff Out

Best wishes to all SISO's


Lawrence Hallett said...

Good article. It takes you back to the "old school" way of doing business, be interested and interesting. So much can be lost in today's "electronic age", that you do not have the ability to affect an individual. It is pretty simple; make an effort to talk to real people, they are much more engaging then the computer.

Nancy Brownell Gay said...

I agree that the time to network is prior to when you need it. One never knows when a company reorganization may occur or when a life change will enter into your life's experiences. This proved to be my case when a company reorganization caused my layoff. And it was via my network that I was able to create a new position for myself. And your comments

• Care about others as much as yourself.
• Care a lot about both sides of “the deal” you are negotiating.

especially hold true as the bridges that you burn early in your career may come back to you 20 years later. I recently had a person call on me that I hadn't seen in 15 years.....and luckily our earlier negotiations were a win-win that made our re-establishment of contact positive.

Brad said...

Strongly agree with the comments.

Stuart Rosenberg said...

I started building my network only a few years ago as I did not think it very important. Was I ever wrong. In the last few years my business network has been reactivated and have added new colleagues. Due to following most of the points you made above my network, while relatively small, has been very rewarding as the assistance I have given has been returned to me beyond my wildest dreams.

John you are absolutely correct and more people should and must follow these pointers to greater success.


Anupam Gupta said...

I have tried some of these stratagies and they have worked very well for mr. Keep it up !

Puneet Adlakha said...

Hello Mr John,

This is nice piece of advice and infact very useful. These are few general things which we tend to miss in our busy schedule but yes taing care of such small things definetly ends up in healthy relations.

Carlos Wilson Zanchini said...

Very interesting article. I have been thinking a lot about the network subject and these advises will be helpful.

Shelly (Rachelle) Gibson said...

John I am in complete agreement with your opinions. The old school way builds not just a network but a solid partnership. I manage my categories and work with my suppliers in this way and it has proven to be successful. It is simple and about mutual respect, understanding both sides of the table and focusing on strategic growth together. Caring about the person goes a long way and also helps when you decide to make a move to another company or industry. Great comment.

David Vernon said...

I dislike the metaphorical phrasing that "Leadership is a verb." "Leadership" is itself a noun. "To lead" is a verb. Leadership is the capacity or ability to lead. Leading is the action itself. There is no leadership without the act of leading, so that is the reality behind the metaphor, but metaphors, like slogans, often become substitutes for the actions required to make things happen. Ultimately, the results achieved by doing what must be done are far more important than the words used to describe or motivate those deeds.

In the Boy Scouts, leadership is both taught and practiced, as it is in the Army. It is neither taught nor practiced in most colleges, including business schools. Other than a paid job in a leadership role, the only way to become a leader is to learn how it is done, by practice, in a volunteer non-profit context - Rotary, Freemasons, religious institutions, etc. I learned more about good and bad leadership as the Sergeant at Arms of my Service Fraternity in college than I ever learned from reading or talking about leadership in the abstract. Taking turns as a follower and a leader during group efforts to build something, create something, or accomplish something quickly exposes dozens of things leaders must not do and the few things leaders must do in order for the group to achieve the goal. What many leaders forget is that leadership is not about "being the leader", it is about accomplishing the goal for which the group you are leading was constituted. Any leader who is more full of him or herself than the job they are supposed to do will fail, almost certainly. Staying in charge while not leading is a prescription for destruction of the group.

There is no "I" in "team." There is no "I" in "leader" either. Leadership that is inactive is no leadership at all.

Sherryl Jacobs said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

This is excellent John, thanks! I've sent you a personal response.

James 'Jim' R. Todd said...

I have noted that many professionals that I have worked with would fall into the demographic category of being more introverted than extroverted. I am convinced that this is a continuum, with many shades of grey. But, what seems to be most valuable to remember, that building strong interpersonal relationships has proven to be most significant. I did not seek out this approach, for me it has been more of a designed-in attribute. I have discovered that it is much more difficult to remain stuck in a difficult professional situation, when both parties have an existing inter-personal frame of reference.

Scott Griffin said...

Always use the line "How can I help you?" - and mean it! Be willing to help another before asking for help.

Donald Brooks said...

Understand that business as well as 'networking' is about relationships. One tip to improve your relationships is to call one of you collegues each day/week just to catch up on things. As John points out, ask about their family or their situation showing that you care about them.

Glen Hall said...

John, I find this stuff very helpful and will pass it on to my network. Thanks.

Jennifer Kratson said...

Very nice John. Thank you for sharing.
Hope you had a great weekend!

Kindest regards always...Jenn

Robert Roma said...

Great advise in business and life. If you treat people the way you would like to be treated it will always come back to you in a positive way. It was a pleasure to read your comments. You rarely see this kind of thinking any longer.
Good luck in your new opportunity.

Ronald Vermeij said...

"When I called for absolutely no apparent reason, in today’s economy, with no current active business, did they take my call. I was pleasantly surprised to find the “old school” way I was taught to do business paid off handsomely."

I have one tip for you John:
PURE LOVE does not need any (brain, ego) reason.
Just let it flow when and where you FEEL is needs to go

Namaste, Ronald

David Singer said...

John- Well said. In a very challenging market I have been pleasantly surprised by the amount of return calls I get on a daily basis. I have been in the executive search industry (focused on supply chain and purchasing) for 20 years, and have built my business by establishing long-term relationships with people not necessarily with companies. I consider myself fortunate to be in a business that can be financially rewarding, but also has a major impact on people's lives. I have learned that by listening and treating people with respect, things come back to you tenfold. Some of my best clients have come from relationships I have had with candidates that I never placed but have taken on leadership roles and have called me to assist in building their teams.

Eric said...

This is great stuff and a very good topic. A couple of ideas that have served me in this area:
• Make notes in your contact database: i.e. children names, hobbies, when you met and last meeting. The larger your network and the older you get, the more difficult it is to rely on your memory.
• Respond rapidly to outreach from your network- nothing demonstrates you care like a sense of urgency.
• Don't restrict your networking to your industry. Supplement with a broad-based network in your community since you may want to move to a different industry in the future.
• When you are helped, follow-up to communicate the outcome and thank with specifics.
• If you didn't build your network before you needed it, you can still get started right now.
We enjoyed our dinner together as well and wish you and Barbara the very best with your exciting new move!

Brian Harrison Smith said...

Face to face meetings followed by phone contact are still the preferred method of communication. People are emotional and this is the best way to convey personal feelings. People want to work and play with people who care. Caring means understanding the situation from the other persons perspective.

David Buley said...

Great advice.

Late in life I came to appreciate how important a network can be to me, but I have found that the best advice above is the "build the network when you don't need it". Very true.

To the advice, I will inject a bit of technology help. As we all use linked in, at least once a week look through your home page news for updates from people. Comment on them. Make suggestions for books they might enjoy. Use the "recent news" section for short broadcast messages of this time, or to send something humorous (you can't get enough of that these days".

In short, help when you have nothing to gain, and fortune will come back to you.

Scooterrocks said...

Great post. I appreciated Nancy's B. reply. You never know when your going to need to resch out. I was faced with a reorg. Mid-2009. I used my existing relationships to create new ones. Networking across functions and companies was key to securing a new position on my terms.

This year I have focused on asking rather than directing others to be motivated to help. WOW what a difference.

One more comment, I did not see the thought of recognition and thanking people after they have helped. This reinforces the importance of their help and allows you to be able to go back to them down the road.

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