How to build a network of professionals
We’ve put together our ten favourite tips for building a powerful network of professionals that can help you to develop your business.
Having a superb network is useful for business development without a doubt as ‘people buy from people’ but it is also incredibly helpful when you are facing business issues that you can’t solve alone.
Having the ability to ask your network for a really good printing company, or a graphic designer will bring a host of recommendations for companies that are proven to provide a good service.
So here are our top ten tips.
#1 Have a SMART objective
Start off with a clear and defined reason for networking.
If you don’t have a sensible objective then how do you know that your efforts are paying off?
SMART may be an oldie, but it is also a real goody that works.
There’s an excellent explanation of SMART objective building here https://www.forbes.com/sites/victorlipman/2016/11/02/why-smart-job-objectives-are-exactly-that/#514dcb3f3d56 if you are not familiar with the concept.
#2 Make network building a habit
We’d all like things just to happen but as with anything in life, you get out what you put in.
Develop an organised method of building your network, take time to get to know people and you’ll find that the connections will grow.
Doing a little networking every day won’t feel like too much of a chore but you’ll be surprised how it soon adds up.
#3 Target the right communities
It sounds a little bit aggressive, but ‘targeting’ simply means understanding what your preferred network member looks like.
Do you want them to be in your locality? Are you looking for specific skills to add to your network? What demographic do they fall into?
This leads directly on from your SMART objectives in that if for instance, you have decided that you want to have a network of people that can help you build a website then you know exactly what skills to add.
#4 Choose the right channels & platforms
When you are looking to build your network you have to remember that people don’t all hang out in the same place.
Whether you are building an online network or one based on personal contacts, understanding where your ideal members live is a really important part of the process.
For example, if you have decided to build a network of software coders then you probably won’t find them hanging out in your local pub, but you will find them online.
If you are looking for crafters then they are more likely to be using Instagram than LinkedIn.
Sometimes they may seem like clichés but clichés are clichés for a reason!
#5 Be sensibly visible
If your first introduction into your community is ‘hey people buy my stuff’ then your membership is likely not to produce effective dividends.
Instead build up your visibility by offering help with no strings, commenting on threads and being generally positive about other people’s efforts.
Nobody likes the hard sell so ease your way into the group.
#6 Don’t think that the world is only online
If you live online it is very tempting to think that the world does too.
From experience, we can tell you that this isn’t the case so if you want to build your professional network then you need to be talking to people in real life.
Look for high-quality networking opportunities like your local Chamber of Commerce or business organisation.
Start with places that you feel comfortable and where people are just like you and then branch out and find groups where the membership is more diverse.
#7 Look for common ground
There’s an expression ‘echo chamber’ which essentially describes people who are all the same all talking to one another and never looking outwards.
This is a bad place to be because all you ever do is get opinions and information that backs up your own view of the world.
That having been said, the first step when it comes to building a strong and effective network is to find common ground with people.
What interests do you share? What experiences do you have in common?
By finding common ground you will also find that people are much more predisposed to connecting and communicating.
#8 Don’t assume that people owe you
I think we have all had the experience where we connect with someone, either online or in real-life and they immediately expect to be able to sell to us, simply because they connected.
This assumption that because you were good enough to connect, people automatically owe you the chance to sell to them is a big no-no.
Admittedly professional networks take to this in different ways; in the US a sales approach directly after a connection is much more acceptable whilst in the UK and Scandanavia it is frowned upon.
So having some cultural sensitivity around the issue is also helpful.
#9 Pay it forward
This is one of the best tips for building a really strong professional network.
Originally this meant that the recipient of a good deed, instead of repaying to the original benefactor would do a good deed in turn to another person.
Now it can often mean just simply doing a good deed to someone else.
But it’s a great way to start a chain of events that helps build a network but also engenders good feeling and a sense of common cause.
You can even make it an event by having a ‘pay it forward’ day or week or month for your business.
#10 Be open to connection
You can’t build a strong professional network if you never make connections.
It sounds obvious but you’d be surprised at how many people bemoan their lack of a network but don’t do things like developing a networking habit or looking at people outside their initial group of friends.
Networking can be great fun, whether you do it online or at your local group but you have to be open to meeting and connecting with new people, so get out there and enjoy!
Having a professional network multiplies your usefulness to clients
Have you ever been to a professional advisor who has been able to refer you on to someone in their network who can do a great job for you?
Maybe you have been to a lawyer who has passed you on to a great accountant or vice versa.
Not only are you grateful and happy to have found the great accountant but you also harbour much better feeling towards the initial referrer.
Helping people by referring within your network helps build strength with your fellow professionals and impresses and pleases your clients.
By using our tips you can build a strong, effective and incredibly helpful professional network – so what are you waiting for?