5 easy steps to consider reflecting on what is going on in your network

Aleksander Góra
by Aleksander Góra on July 18, 2019
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Over the past 2 years we have been following a group of 30 business development managers making their way through business development challenges in Poland & the UK

In the process, I have found that networking—creating a fabric of personal contacts that provide introductions, insight, resources & information—is the KEY personal developmental challenge that aspiring business development professionals must address

Strategic networking

Strategic networks deliver 3 unique advantages:

  • private information
  • access to diverse skill sets
  • connectivity to appropriate contacts

When we make judgments in business development we use both public & private information.

These days, public information is easily available from a variety of sources, including the Internet; but because it is so accessible, public information offers significantly less competitive advantage in business development than it used to. Private information, by contrast, is gathered from personal contacts who can offer something unique that cannot be found in the public domain, such as:

  • the release date of a new product
  • unpublished expansion plans
  • knowledge about what a particular buyer looks for in making a decision

Private information, therefore, can give the top business development specialist an edge. Consequently, the value of your private information to others & the value of others’ private information to you will depend on how much trust exists in the network of relationships. I refer to this as the level of Social Commercial Comfort within your network. People generally work like this dependant on how they ‘know, like & trust’ each other the saying attributed to Mark Twain

Strategic networking requires that you reflect & do some diagnosis regarding your business development network

Think about what type of network you currently have & it is worth considering how your networking practices can lead to one kind of network or another type. This is why strategic networking generates your opportunity DNA which is essentially the platform that creates the genes that are your connections

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Learn how to build a network of connections to meet
the strategic & immediate needs of your enterprise.

Networking DNA

Your networking DNA is made up of the most important contacts in your network—people you rely on for the exchange of private information, specialised expertise, advice & introductions. A crucial contact could be a former college connection who has become influential in an area of interest to you & your firm, a current business associate, an old colleague from the first company you ever worked for, or your brother-in-law etc etc

Think of the resources you exchange with that person, the quid pro quos & the strength of your ties.

According to the 5next studies if you’ve introduced yourself to your key contacts more than 50% of the time, then you’re probably building your network using the Social Commercial Comfort principle to your accidental detriment & the DNA of your network may be too ‘inbred’. The Social Commercial Comfort concept when it is followed to an extreme will influence you so that, when you make network contacts, you tend to choose people who resemble you in terms of experience, training, point of view & so on. 5next found that some business development specialists disproportionately use Social Commercial Comfort to build their networks. Obviously, it is easier to trust someone who views the world through the same lens you do as you expect that person to act as you would in ambiguous situations

What’s more, working with people who share your background is often very efficient. You both recognise concepts that allow you to transfer information quickly & you are less likely to challenge one another’s ideas. Like-minded people will usually affirm your point of view & as a result accidentally bolster your ego. If you are the point of introduction to your key connections more than 50% of the time, then your network may be too inbred & is accidentally limiting your potential

Download FREE ebook - Strategic Networking

Learn how to build a network of connections to meet
the strategic & immediate needs of your enterprise.

Here are 5 easy steps to consider reflecting on what is going on in your network

Step 1 – Identify your network cluster

First figure out where you want to focus your efforts:

  • Are you looking to connect with large corporations, medium-sized companies or start-ups?
  • Are you looking to connect with decision makers in marketing, sales, manufacturing, IT or any other specific function?
  • Do you have geography limitations?

On this basis create your list of contacts within those parameters

Step 2 – Ask for ideas & advice

Contact each person on this list & say:

I was recommended to you by [ABC]. I’m hoping to get your ideas & advice as I am looking to connect to XYZ industry & would appreciate 15 minutes of your time.

Be sensitive to your interviewee’s time & listen carefully to what they have to say. You are developing your network not looking for sales.

Step 3 – Follow up immediately

As you are building your network strategically I would recommend writing personal handwritten thank you note to your contact & mail it the day after your meeting. Doing so signals that you are a quality person, that you care & you are on top of your game.

Step 4 – Follow up with regular emails

Send a brief email on a regular basis to each of your interviewees saying:

I just wanted to let you know my network building search is becoming productive. I have spoken with [XYZ you recommended], & thank you again for the contact.

Meanwhile, if you hear of any introduction opportunities, I would appreciate your forwarding them along to me

Thanks & I wish you continued success.

Step 5 – Keep your network alive

Keep your network cluster intact by checking in with the key personnel. I’m still in regular touch with many of the people in my original cluster. I try to reciprocate their generosity whenever possible & they have continued to support me when I most needed it.

Download FREE ebook - Strategic Networking

Learn how to build a network of connections to meet
the strategic & immediate needs of your enterprise.

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5 easy steps to consider reflecting on what is going on in your network
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5 easy steps to consider reflecting on what is going on in your network
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Over the past 2 years we have been following a group of 30 business development managers making their way through business development challenges in Poland & the UK In the process, I have found that networking—creating a fabric of personal contacts that provide introductions, insight, resources & information—is the KEY personal developmental challenge that aspiring business development professionals must address
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5next
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Aleksander Góra
Aleksander Góra
Aleksander is co-founder & CEO of 5next. He is the author of Open Heart Website Surgery - An ultimate guide for leads generation for medium and small businesses. Featured in Rafael Dos Santos book - "100 Inspirational Migrant Entrepreneurs in the United Kingdom." Aleksander is also a product manager and Lead UX Designer in one of the leading conversion optimisation platforms Convertize.io
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