As you review your year, as you celebrate your results and successes and re-live the challenges, what will you think about your networking results? Will you be pleasantly surprised by the percentage of your business that has been created by your contacts, or will you be attempting to justify the cost and time again?
In 2012 you can do things differently- you can start the year with a clear vision of where you want your networking to take you, what results you really expect from it and what effort you are prepared to put in. And it is key that you start with that last part; knowing what you are prepared to invest is vital to your results. Ask yourself the following questions:
1) What percentage of my invoiced business do I want my networking to generate?
2) What percentage of my weekly working hours am I prepared to invest in my networking?
3) Will I actually commit to that time, daily, for the next 12 months?
4) What stopped me in 2011?
You need to be honest – nobody is looking at your answers except you, so don’t complete these with answers that impress, complete them with answers that will benefit you by being realistic, challenging, exciting and that you can stick to. When you answer question four, review your answers – are they just excuses? If you are making excuses not to network, are you simply avoiding something you don’t enjoy or are you not taking it seriously? Identifying your real reasons for not achieving your goals is a huge step towards them.
The next step is to think about what you bring to your networks. What skills, talents, connections, passions and experience do you offer? How are you prepared to use them to benefit the members of your networks? Will you offer more of your time to one network than another? Where are you most comfortable when you network, allowing you to bring more to the group. Networking starts with a willingness to give, so be prepared and be sincere about your contributions. If you are looking for the gain, you will be disappointed; if you are looking for the next opportunity to give – you will be spoken about, valued and introduced to great people.
The last step, before you prepare a detailed networking strategy, is to establish your level of credibility in your existing network. You will get referrals and recommendations based on your track record – your credibility. Ask people you have received referrals from in 2011, why they recommended you. Ask clients how they would sum up the experience of working with you. Review their responses and take note – these are the reasons people will seek you out in their networks, the reasons they will risk their reputations to recommend you.
If you are really serious about getting different results from your networking in 2012, then be prepared to do things differently. Setting goals is a great idea – but achieving them is a better one. To achieve your networking goals, you will need to be consistent; book time in your diary – every day – to ensure you are following up on your promises and delivering results for everyone. Set yourself up to succeed and monitor your progress as you go.
The results you get from your networking are, like your reputation and your credibility, in your own hands. Getting results is down to you; take real action to do something differently next year – I’d love to hear how you get on.