4 July 2020
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LinkedIn lovers need to learn the secret of networking

Peter Switzer
28 April 2017

A mate of mine heads up LinkedIn in Australia, so its success here has been good to see. However, I have a problem with LinkedIn and LinkedInees.

As many of you know, I don’t like whingeing, so let me call this a helpful piece of mentoring for all the LinkedInees out there.

Let me explain.

When I put “the power of networking” into my search engine, this is what I saw first: “Networking has long been recognized as a powerful tool for business people and professionals. ... The creators of LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter have built their empires on the presumption that their social networking tools help people build their networks and remain better connected than ever.”

Okay, that’s not a bad starting point. However to me, these explanations leave out the crucial aspect of successful networking, which I spotlight in a minute or two.

Some time ago, Samantha Cortez penned a piece for AMEX on the subject. The headline was: “The Pros Share 8 Tips On Turning Contacts Into Connections.”

I thought for sure that this would have to have the secret to networking nestled in these eight insights from the gurus of connecting. However, I’m not sure if even these experts have delivered.

In general terms, networking can help with building up customers, supportive suppliers, potential funders or equity partners, and they can even be the mentors that give you insights into how to build your business or your brand. It’s something I used to call just being friendly, but the more I learnt about business and world-class business-builders, the more I saw that there is actually a process that the smart person learns and perfects.

When Cathy and David Harris — the founders of Harris Farm Markets — nearly went broke in the late 1980s because their equity partner, who bought into their business, was in debt up to its eyeballs, it was the Harris’ network of friends who bonded together to provide the capital for them to buy back their business. That was the network they had to have!

Today, they have 26 stores around New South Wales and while David and Cathy are great business builders, it was their network that was critical for keeping them alive and in the game.

Let’s see what the experts recommend to ensure your networking nails it.

1. Showing up is a starting point. You have to go to events and/or get into the online vehicles that open you up to other people.

2. Once you meet a few people, it’s crucial to follow up or else the whole ‘meet and greet’ thing ends up being a waste of time.

3. Don’t ignore the network potential of your unread emails! Even read ones might have become victims of your over-extended memory and busy life, so revisit the people who wanted to connect with you.

4. It’s app to you! There are apps out there aimed at helping you network professionally, so give them a go.

5. Never be without a business card — even at the beach! It says something about your professionalism, if you can always help people find you to do business with you. Remember, if you want to go from being an ordinary to a great anything, you have to change the way you do things. And being a card-carrying fan of your own business seems pretty sensible. Don’t you think? In fact, the really smart networkers give out two cards and suggest to the recipient that if they know anyone who might like to be helped by them, “well, here’s an extra card.” That’s turbo-charging your networking!

6. On the back of the cards, write down some notes that will help further the connection. For example, if they say that they’re going on holidays or their son is about to graduate, make a note so you can send a note of congratulations. It’s about the relationship.

7. Do it with a friend! Some networkers do their stuff making sure they not only talk about themselves but others who might be a useful contact for the person met at a networking function. If this friend does the same, then you’re doubling your reach.

8. Get outside your comfort zone and take chances. Some people just can’t do networking face-to-face so I’d suggest you do some acting or public speaking course to build up your confidence. However, until that happens, make the best out of online options for networking and go for it.

So what have the experts left out with their top eight tips?

Actually, quite a lot. Although I have to say what’s above is good stuff, as Tim Shaw once said: “But wait there’s more!”

The radio broadcaster Alan Jones is a prodigious letter writer, which is so outside the square nowadays. It remains a great way to accumulate raving fans, who become a part of your network.

There are other techniques to make your networking efforts net better results.

First, make sure you have a script prepared so when someone asks you what you do, you come up with something like: “We’re a financial planning business founded on rebating commissions, charging flat dollar fees and making sure we give honest advice that would never damage the brand name — Switzer — which we’ve worked for decades to build.”

That’s what we used to say when we started our business and, as you can see, it’s not only informative, it’s a damn great ad!

Second, don’t come to just talk about yourself. Listen. Show interest.

Third, don’t sit with people you know. Get out there and extend your reach.

Fourth, you’re not there for the food and booze.

Fifth, have great business cards but make sure you show a lot of interest in the cards you receive.

But wait, there’s even more!

The one message I got from the greats of networking is this simple message: “Givers get.”

The best way to receive in business, as in life, is to be a giver.

And that’s the problem I have with LinkedIn — it feels like a one-way street, with so many people who have linked into me.

A few years back, my business put on a leadership luncheon starring Opposition Treasurer Joe Hockey and businessmen John Singleton and Mark Carnegie — it was a stellar business event ahead of the election!

I informed my LinkedIn friends about the chance to not only get insights from some of the country’s best business and political achievers but also to meet me. Few actually put their hands into their pockets to support the event and, by definition, me.

We did get 500 people there but I really should have called those people who attend true supporters of me and my business.

My mentoring message to the thousands of LinkedIn buddies I have accepted over the years is to take on board this really important message — givers get.

I hope this important education lesson, which I’ve learnt from the likes of Gerry Harvey, Richard Branson, Cathy Harris, Janine Allis and many great entrepreneurs and business colleagues, will be seen as a gift I’m giving to my LinkedIn network.

All the best with your business building and personal brand building. Peter.

Click here to connect with Peter on LinkedIn. 

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