Food for Thought by John Spence
There are a number of good reasons why networking can benefit your career and business, but I believe the three most important are: the opportunity to help others succeed, the confidence that comes from knowing you have people who can help you and the realization that the majority of new customers typically come directly from networking and word-of-mouth referrals.
1. The opportunity to help others
It has long been my philosophy in business and life that if you just help enough people get what they need, you will get everything you need. So, the first and most important benefit of networking is the opportunity to be of service to others in your community, to offer them help and advice, give them information and connect them to others they want to meet. The most successful networkers are always the ones who focus intently on how they can add value to others, and not what they can get out of the relationship. The key is to be insanely curious about the other people in your network and how you can help them. One of my standard networking techniques is to spend at least an hour a week searching for great information on the Internet such as articles, blogs or inspirational quotes that I can send out to my network because I know it will be of value to them. The key here is give, give, give before you ever ask for anything in return, and make sure that everything you give to your network is of value to them—not something to help you.
2. You don’t have to have the answers
The second reason networking is so valuable is that – once you build a large network of bright, sharp and talented people – if you ever get into a situation where you can’t find the solutions to a problem, you can reach out to your network and ask for help. Several times in my career, I have come up against issues that were simply over my head and too challenging for me to address, but a quick note to my network yielded dozens of ideas and additional contacts from people who could help me solve my problems quickly and correctly. It gives me great confidence to recognize that I don’t have to know the answers to every single issue or problem that arises; I just need a robust network of talented people who are willing to give me their input and advice when I ask for it.
3. Word of mouth is a key to business success
John Jantsch stated in this fantastic book, “The Referral Engine,” that roughly 78 percent of small to medium sized businesses report that the majority of their new customers come directly from word-of-mouth referrals and networking, and in nearly 20 years of doing the kind of work I do, I know that 99.9 percent of all of my business comes from referrals within my network. To turn your network into a hugely successful referral engine, I take advice from my good friend, Tim Sanders, who wrote the book “Love is the Killer App,” in which he outlined the three things it takes to build a great career:
- Knowledge: You need to be very, very talented at something that has high value in the marketplace. You need to have skills, abilities, experience and ideas that people are willing to pay for.
- Network: A lot of the “right people” need to know about you, and by right people I mean “hubs.” Hubs are the people in your community who, if they are very impressed with how incredibly talented you are in something that is valuable, will tell a few hundred or a few thousand people about you and your wonderful skills—as long as you have the third element…
- Love: You are a person of tremendous integrity and honesty who is loving, kind, generous and focused on being of service.
If you are a kind, honest and loving person – who is highly talented at something that is valuable in the marketplace – and a lot of the right people know that about you, you will have massive business and career success. So the three questions you must ask yourself every day are:
What did I learn today?
Who did I meet today?
Did I live my values today?
John Spence is the author of “Awesomely Simple – Essential Business Strategies for Turning Ideas into Action,” and has been recognized multiple times as one of the top 100 business thought leaders in America and also one of the country’s leading small business influencers. www.johnspence.com