Probably the biggest waste of time I see lawyers, accountants and consultants do with their business development, is network without a clear purpose or strategy. It isn’t helped by many firms asking their people to sub in for another person at the drop of a hat. Having a personal networking strategy that you can use to guide you with your networking activity is probably one of the biggest ways of saving business development time. In Friday’s blog we looked at setting your networking goals, and Thursday’s blog post we looked at the 5 stages in creating an effective networking strategy. In today’s blog post, we are going to look at the second stage of building an effective networking strategy – auditing your current network and activities for effectiveness. Many people think that they have to build a network from scratch. Actually, each of us naturally has our own network – and for many of us, there will be some great contacts who will be able to help us. For example, this could include people you have worked with in the past, whether on an assignment or within your firm. When I am running an event on networking, I often use an exercise to prove to the audience that they all have a network and are networking all the time. I ask the audience a series of questions, such as:
- Who has phoned or texted a friend in the last fortnight?
- Whose mother has called them? (it’s always that way around!)
- Who has read a blog post?
- Who has logged into Facebook or LinkedIn?
Unsurprisingly, everyone in the audience will say yes to at least one of the questions – which, as each of these actions is a form of networking, just goes to show that we are all networking all the time. Just because you have a network and are networking all the time, doesn’t mean to say that you are doing it in an effective manner. I.e. spending time with the right people and places. This is why, the second stage of building a networking strategy is to do a networking audit. After all, you don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water. The best way to do a network audit is to draw out your network map. Here is instructions how to do map out your network. You should now start to see how you are connected to your contacts. Have a look through your network, and answer the following questions:
- Who is currently well-placed to help me achieve my network goal? What help do I need from them?
- Where are there gaps in my network, of the types of people who are well-placed to help me achieve my networking goals?
Now you have looked at your current network, it’s time to look at your current networking activities. Ask yourself:
- What activities are you doing, such as membership of a professional networking group, which are helping you connect with the right types of people?
- What activities are you doing which are helping you achieve your networking goals, whether personal or professional?
- What activities are not working for you?
Now that you have done your networking audit, write down the following:
- What I will start, stop or continue with my networking activities to help me achieve my networking goals?
- What relationship plans will I put in place to build or maintain relationships within my current network to help me achieve my networking goals?
Very often many professionals, after completing this audit, realise that their current network contains many of the types of people that can actively help them achieve their networking goals. Actually, unless I am working with very junior professionals or people changing profession or professional circumstances, that they have to focus on finding rather than building or maintaining relationships in their network. In our next blog post we will look at the next stage in the process, ‘finding’ relationships to add into our network.