What is networking? Is it gathering information, selling products
or services or is it making friends? For years the
word has been circulated as one of the most important “topics”
at conferences and trade shows. When you network you get work,
is the quote we often see. There are “experts” everywhere,
each one selling their particular brand of networking. There
are those who sell the rules, others who sell the products and
there are others who just walk the talk.
After years of networking, I have finally discovered what the
word really means to me, and to the people I interact with.
It’s an art! I compare networking to an artist’s
pallet, the colours are there to work with, and the choice is
ours how we blend and apply that colour to our own particular
piece of art. For me, I creatively use three basic colours
to develop and build my database.
While networking is an art, everything I do surrounding that
art, seems to have a cycle. Once the cycle has begun, I follow
the same strategic plan each time to complete that cycle from
beginning to end. It amazed me when I really did my analysis,
to recognize that the process was so simple and so easy to replicate.
I have determined that what the word networking really means,
is a three-fold answer. We network for rapport, for
information and for results.
When I enter into a networking cycle, I always begin with rapport
building. There is absolutely no point in networking
until you find out what you have in common with the other person.
In all of my workshops I try to instill in my audience that
people like people who are like themselves. Unless we find that
common interest, we can’t move forward in the cycle of
networking. Once we have found our shared interest, we can move
forward to the next step in the networking cycle. This first
colour I use in the Art of effective networking is the colour
Orange. Orange for me, signifies the first
step in the networking process. At this stage we listen, we
hear what the other person has to say, we think about whom we
know and we put them first. We share our resources; we create
a bond between us. The cycle - we meet, we build the rapport,
we find our common interest and we forward in the relationship.
The next step in the evolution of networking is to
gather information, to cement the relationship so that there
is an ongoing benefit for both parties. In the beginning,
one person must take the lead and determine how the process
will move forward. By asking the right questions you can determine
what you have in common and how you can build on that common
interest. I often introduce myself with not only my name, but
a little information that will evoke a similar response. An
example – “Hi, my name is Donna Messer- I’m
a broadcast journalist.” The reply is often,” Nice
to meet you, I’m John Smith, I’m an electrical engineer.”
A good question – gets a good reply that will help you
expand on your Art. Networking is a process; success doesn’t
happen immediately. Once the rapport has been built, we need
to begin the process of gathering information – on the
company, the person and the industry. If I want that new contact
to become a permanent part of my database, I need to know as
much as possible about them and their interests. This is called
Social Capital – statistics show that the more we know
about a person, the easier it is to bond and become friends
and business associates. The information cycle is the second
colour in our pallet and I use Red, when brushing
up on this very important piece of the networking canvas. During
this part of the process, I become very kinesthetic; I search
for ways to learn more. I use the Internet and often visit Web
sites, associations and organizations that may have relevancy
when it comes to taking my relationship further with my new
contact. I write down what I learn, and I add the information
to my database as a reference point for the future. When I am
in the information cycle, I am constantly searching for lateral
ways to add value to my new contact. Each time I find another
gem of information, or a resource of value, I often send it
to my new contact, with a note to remind them of our meeting
and of our initial rapport.
The next step in the Art of effective networking is
to make sure that there is a next step – a positive result
from the initial meeting. During this cycle in the
process, I am looking for ways to not only cement the relationship
for the future, but to make sure there is a future. Often when
we first meet, there is nothing really discussed between the
two parties other than surface talk. When I go into solution
or result mode, I am looking for ways to add value to my new
connection. I want to supply a referral, provide a lead, or
even buy a product or service from them and I want them to be
comfortable in reciprocating. This is what I call the result
cycle, and it is the third and final colour on my pallet, I
use Green, when I want to provide solutions.
Networking is a series of cycles, we build the rapport,
we gather the information, and we process the results of what
we find. The final step is using the information for the benefit
of both sides of the introduction. It isn’t about
buying or selling from each other, it is about our common interests,
our comfort in providing referrals, sharing resources and the
opportunity to keep in touch in the future. I keep in touch
with my network on a regular basis. I use a monthly newsletter,
that doesn’t sell anything; it shares information and
The Art of effective networking is something anyone can learn.
First you build the rapport with colour Orange. Next you gather
information about the best way to build that relationship between
you and the other person with the colour Red. Finally, you take
what you’ve learned, and offer solutions, resources or
contacts with the colour Green.
The colour theory has been developed by experts over the years.
I have merely adapted their work to reflect the Art of networking.
We have been offering a program called Link and Think, where
we have used the three colours to determine our communication
style, and it has only been recently that we have taken the
colour theory another step. For details on Link and Think visit
our Web site - http://www.connectuscanada.com/linkthink.htm
If you want to become an artist and utilize your talents, simply
recognize that to be a successful and effective networker, you
must build the rapport, make the most of the information you
gather, and find ways to generate positive results.
To bring The Art of Effective Networking to your organization
visit ConnectUs Communications Canada.