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4 September 2011

My new approach to Networking

I think it was Albert Einstein who said “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result”. After attending a networking event on Wednesday in London, one of the speakers Andy Lopata a networking expert. He told the story of how at a networking event for the football industry he was friends with one of the chief executives of a football club and that there was a segregation of the commercial directors of football clubs who were in the VIP bit and the suppliers of services to the football industry. The commercial directors didn’t want to talk to the suppliers and one supplier gave Andy a glance of his badge and saw that it wasn’t a commercial director and so walked off as he wasn’t someone he could sell to! He touched on the fact that if everyone in the room is selling to each other then there are no buyers.

I know personally that I’m good at speaking to new people as people have told me, but now I’ve got to a point in my life where spending more time with people and not aiming towards a specific outcome is much more important to me than getting the next sale. Don’t get me wrong as business owner I have goals and targets I want to achieve, but the reason I work so hard on keeping in touch with my network is so I can spend time with quality people as oppose to those who want a short win from me. There are some industries or job roles that seem more one sided than others, I have some good friends of mine that run recruitment consultancies, and indeed they are good at their jobs. However in my network and on linkedin as an example the messages I receive from recruitment consultants are

“i’m selling what I want, and I have no interest in a two way exchange”.

Think about networking as a recruitment consultant, how easy would it be to find out more about the clients business and the challenges they face, and simply ask when they were reviewing their marketing supplier, but that isn’t focused on their goal. Any time a friend has been looking for a job and I’ve been phoned about a job role I’ve put them in touch. However not once have I received a simple thank you, this is an example of a one way exchange. This post isn’t purely aimed at recruitment consultants as I think they do a valuable and quite tough job as anyone who has worked in sales knows. I think that two way exchanges apply to every industry and that if I know someone is looking for a website to be designed I have some one I can refer them to, if a company is looking to gain more sales online I can help them or if not have people I can put them in touch with.

Lets take some practical examples so we can visualize how we can network better.

You don’t have a network?

You can’t achieve anything on your own, lets take ellie she wants to work in advertising or pr and she doesn’t know anyone in this industry. She knows that if she takes the conventional route of applying to the top agencies that they’re so flooded with applications and that there may be a bias towards those graduates with a degree from a prestigious university. She does a search on google for events in the PR industry and finds one in London, she prepares for going to the event before hand by looking on linked in and searching for each company to get an idea of who will attending the event. Ellie now needs to make sure she has a stronger focus of what she wants to do in PR and what brands she is passionate about. As she has an interest in fashion and beauty products she looks on the companies websites and researches what clients they have. Now she has a focus about what to talk about and ask questions such as “I noticed you work with XYZ brand and you created a strong campaign based around broadsheet publications and TV etc”. A lot better than “I really want to work for you, give us a job!”.

You have a career but want a change?

Louise is a teaching assistant, she’s worked in her job for a number of years and is a bright girl but after having kids she found that she was so busy bringing them up that teaching was more something that paid the bills than her true passion. She became qualified as a teacher and quickly realised that she wanted a career that focussed on travel and hospitality. The jobs she searched for online and in the local paper were limited and she finds one that is for a receptionist at a hotel chain. The interview goes well, however she’s out of practice and feels that her opportunities are limited by the job openings. Louise does a search for travel companies within commutable distance of 40 minutes of her house and puts together a list of companies that match what she is looking for. Realising she has little experience, she find the relevant contact through linked in and speculatively calls the HR manager and asks what the best way to meet them would be and the best way to start working in the industry. She gets a few responses but no interviews, so decides that as she has a talent for writing that she starts a blog about the companies websites in the travel industry and contacts the brands letting them know what she’s up to. She gets invited in to an interview to become a junior copy writer (or blogger 🙂

Established network but not optimising it

Michael is a successful businessman, he heads up the company so often its him going out on sales meetings and closing new business. He has a network from previous jobs and has started to focus on utilizing this network which has resulted in a couple of speaking opportunities, guest articles and has also started to get him referral business. Mike still attends local networks but is increasingly becoming frustrated that his target customer doesn’t visit these events and the customers are slighty too small for his companies proposition. Mike has realized that his best networking comes from the top of the company as he can identify with company directors and their problems. He has also always made an effort to introduce business to others and has resulted in business coming his way. Now Mike is going through his linkedin profile and identifying which are the people that he doesn’t necessarily want to “sell to” but build relationships that help both people become more successful.

Please comment below and tell me your experiences of networking, which one of these you identify with and no spam please!

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