Leverage Your Network

Leverage Your Network

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“If you want to go somewhere, it is best to find someone who has already been there.”
Robert Kiyosaki

‘It’s not what you know, but who you know’. The leverage of people is key to your success – providing a compelling reason for you to network effectively: to achieve your goals.

Highly successful entrepreneurs have highly valuable networks, developed over many years, and they invest considerable time and effort in maintaining them.

Why do it? Extremely successful people leverage others to help them get where they want to go. They use other people’s money, other people’s resources & other people’s ideas to maximum effect to achieve their goals. If the most successful do this to turbocharge their success, it makes sense that it’s a key booster system for your success, too. We can learn from them how they build and leverage their networks.

How can you replicate networking success?

How can you maximise the value of your network in the shortest possible time?

How can you use your network to get you to where you want to go?

Think and act strategically. Your own personal long term goals need to be the goals for your network strategy, too. Be strategic about who you meet. Have an understanding of the purpose of your networking – and who you need to meet and build relationships with in the long term, to reach your goals. Plan your action to get there, and develop the quality of that network, over time.

Consider yourself as your chief marketer, and treat everyone you meet as a potential contact you can leverage in some way. Know the key factors that affect the value of your network, and you can develop strategies that help you to maintain and increase its value. Then develop a plan that maximises each factor.

The key influences on the value of your network:

a) The size of your network.
Clearly, the larger your network, the more potential contacts and opportunities you have, and the more valuable it becomes

b) The quality of your network.
What is the potential value of your network in terms of leverage, on your behalf? What sort of people do you know? What do they have, to help you get where you want to go?

c) The closeness of your network.
How close are your contacts to you? How strong are your ties? Strong relationships developed over years are naturally of higher quality than vague or fleeting relationships.

d) The recency of your network.
Out of sight is out of mind, in most cases. If you do not keep in regular contact with your network, it degrades in size and quality.

e) The understanding of your network.
How well does your network understand what you do? Are members able to refer people to you, and spread your message on your behalf? Do they know you as the person to go to, for certain expertise?

Long term strategic development and use of your network will help you to achieve long term goals, so it’s well worth investing some thought and time into your networking strategy. Like any organism, your network needs regular feeding in order to develop in the right way. Do this consciously, and you’ll develop a network that multiples any personal value far more than one left to random chance.

5 Steps to Build a Network that Helps You Achieve Your Goals

1. Acquire Your Network
Go where the ‘right’ people go, and play the long game. If you will need funding, network with funders. If you need partners, network with potential partners. If you need to learn something, network with people who know. If you want to sell, network with potential buyers. Always be developing relationships with the sort of people you will need in the future, to get you to where you want to go. When the time comes, you will be able to pick up the phone and make it happen.

It is said that ‘You are whoever you spend most time with’. Look around at your current social network or business colleagues. People who wish to be millionaires are advised to ‘hang out’ with millionaires – and this goes for any aspirations you have, in business, philanthropic or leisure interests. Spend time developing relationships with the type of people you want to become. You’ll pick up their attitudes and mindsets. You will get there faster.

Whether at events or one-to-one, connect with everyone you meet: take their cards and add them to your contact lists and networks. Keep connected through the social networks they maintain. It is important to proactively meet people who will move you towards your long term goals.

Be proactive with business cards (instead of losing or discarding them). I photograph every business card I receive, email it to my assistant, and connect with my new contact through as many networks as I can. In the B2B context I find LinkedIn to be the most valuable of all networks.

Target key connectors – people with strong personal networks – in any industry, and build strong relationships with them. Leverage their networks, as well as your own.

2. Convert Your Network
Make an impression (preferably a great one!) when you first meet someone. It sets the stage for your future relationship. Be interesting and memorable to everyone you meet. Nobody remembers average, so be remarkable. Develop an authentic personal brand that is consistent and easy for people to remember. Sell the whole package, and make an effort in the whole interaction, from the presentation of your business card, to how you dress, to how you talk and follow up.

Pay it forward. Always find out how you can help the other person first, and find ways to deliver a result for them. Always seek to add more value than you take away. There is little point in selling at this stage. ‘One night stands’ rarely last, so go into every potential relationship thinking of its long term value. In a short term world, those who think long term really stand out.

Be really clear about what it is you do, and why. A clouded message is never good. Practise an ‘elevator pitch’ that explains what you do within a few seconds. The simpler and more interesting you make your proposition, the easier it is to be remembered for it. Complexity gets forgotten. Everyone else gets forgotten.

Always follow up with everyone you meet. Whether by e-mail, telephone call, or in person, always follow up. Make it personal by reinforcing every interaction.

3. Retain Your Network
Most relationships wither without regular contact or reinforcement, so continuously develop relationships with everyone you have met. Develop strong ties that count – really strong relationships with key players who are likely to help you towards your long term goals.

This can be very labour-intensive, so try to maintain contact without high social overhead – conserving time, energy and resources for what’s important. Look for people with huge personal networks or who inspire you to another level. Prioritise people who are really going to make a difference in the long term.

Do not underestimate the value of ‘weak ties’ – the people you don’t know well (if at all). The ‘6 degrees of separation’ that connect us is actually getting smaller all the time. There is huge combined wisdom, connections and opportunities in your network at every level. For instance, if you make a sales call, you are five times more likely to get through if you have a shared connection. Relationships count, and weak ties deliver considerable opportunities with a fraction of the social overhead.

The power of weak ties can be also seen in generating creative or innovative ideas. Groups of people with independent ideas will come to more creative, better conclusions than any individual alone.

Develop ways of efficiently communicating with your wider network, at scale. Use pseudo-marketing strategies to maintain and develop weaker ties. It has never been easier to do this. I use a weekly blog post, an e-mail programme and social media to maintain consistent contact with everyone I have met, as well as developing an increasing following of people I have never met at all. I use that strategy to help people en masse through one or two postings, at the same time reminding many people of what I do.

4. Leverage Your Network
When you offer your assistance to others, or ‘pay it forward’, the future returns will surprise you. Stay in touch with your network to know how to help them, and understand how it can help you. Whenever you need help, ask. With advances in communication there has never been a better time to ask for help from those we know. People always like to help and offer solutions. Someone always knows someone, who can give you anything – whether a restaurant recommendation in a strange land, or an introduction to a decision-maker for the deal of the century. If you do not ask, you do not get.

A highly valuable network only counts if you use it. Share your needs or desires with everyone you know. This is the law of attraction in action. The bigger and more engaged your network, the more powerfully this works.

5. Take it a Level Higher
Appreciate the value of strategically building your own network and then imagine the value of building and developing networks on a company-wide basis. If every employee maximises their own network, the value of those employees to the company increases substantially.

We are moving away from a centralised approach to marketing, and closer to every individual being a marketer for their company. Companies that leverage individuals to the maximum will have the greatest success in years to come. Personal networks are our greatest assets as individuals, and should be seen as the greatest asset of the company.

To create the greatest benefit for yourself and others, and to achieve your greatest success, it’s vital to use your network for leverage. Be creative and opportunistic – in the nicest possible way. Network in the same direction of your long term goals – and your well-chosen network will help you to achieve them.

Having a long term strategic plan for growing, developing and leveraging your network can yield massive results. As one of the most valuable things you can do, it is an absolute must. Make a wise investment of thought, time and resources into putting this into action over time, and reap the profits – with high interest.

To achieve great success, plan to maximise every interaction you have.

Create an effective networking strategy
Take action!

What changes do you need to make to your networks, and your approach?
Take action!

Maximise the benefits
Enjoy the results!

Further Reading:

The Strength of Weak Ties by Mark S. Granovetter (Paper)

Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki (Amazon Link UK, US)

Linkedworking: Generating Success on Linkedin by Lewis Howes (Amazon Link UK, US)

If the above topic, or indeed any of my blogs are of interest to you, then contact me and let’s talk! Drop me an email at getintouch@marcwinn.com.

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