Networking is nothing more than a "con" game. Have you ever been contacted by some swindler offering you money if you would help out a long, lost relative located in a remote country? We all know calls like these are scams. But, in sales, can we associate the necessary skill of networking with a "con"? I believe we can and should.
Now, I'm not suggesting that networking is a sleazy activity. Networking is a "con" game because the letters "con" are critical reminders of how to be successful in this endeavor. Instead of associating "con" with its negative connotation, I'd like to suggest that you link "con" with the words Continuity, Concern, and Confidence. I call them the "3 Cons of Networking." The need to display each of these is at the core of every networking opportunity whether we realize it or not.
To emphasize my point, stop for a moment and think about the people who you value knowing. Each one has communicated a sense of continuity, concern, and confidence towards you. In the same regard, people who have you in their network have come to see these same three "cons" in you. Many times, unfortunately, we don't realize this so we are unable to leverage the "3 Cons" to increase the value of our network.
Let's break down each of the "3 Cons of Networking" and examine some ways we can use them to our advantage:
The first "Con" is Continuity and it serves as the foundation of networking. Do not assume continuity requires you to have face to face meetings on a regular basis with the person you're associating with. Rather, continuity means that you have contact with the other person at a frequency that can be counted on. Although this implies regularity, it just means the contact that takes place has to occur at a rate that is natural to both parties. Besides getting together in person, it can be made by mail, e-mail, telephone, or even a fax. The rate of recurrence will control the speed and depth of the networking relationship. If you want to be better connected with someone, identify the type of contact which best suits that person and seek to get in touch with them on an appropriate schedule.
The second "Con" is Concern. Do you show concern for the other person? Are you willing to go out of your way to assist them? Many people desire to network with others for nothing more than building a list of names, as if they were collecting baseballs cards or old coins. In reality, networking is about making a difference in the lives of others. It's about being willing to put their needs in front of your own. You do this by showing interest in them, by asking them questions, by helping them achieve their goals, by congratulating them for things they've accomplished, and by being will to share their success with others. Although this "Con" is the most critical, it is also the most often neglected in society today.
The final "Con" is Confidence. Under no circumstance should this be associated with arrogance. It's not as much about your level of self-assurance as it is about the amount of confidence the other person has in you. Think about it. If you aren't confident in somebody, you won't confide in them, you won't support them, and you probably will not go out of your way for them. The person who others have confidence in is respected. How do gain the confidence of those in your network? Demonstrate Continuity and Concern. (You might say confidence is the end result of doing the other two well.) Be knowledgeable and professional with the other person. Be willing to put yourself into situations where they can see how you respond to things in both good and bad times. Commit to be yourself regardless of who you're with or who you desire to meet. Turning these actions into habits will help you gain the respect and confidence you desire from your counterparts.
Networking is a "con" game, nothing more and nothing less. When you are willing to invest time into carrying out the "3 Cons," you will find your network growing not just in size, but, more importantly, in the value and benefits you and those you network with receive from it. Successful networking relationships have "con" written all over them!
Mark Hunter, "The Sales Hunter", is a sales expert who speaks to thousands each year on how to increase their sales profitability. For more information, to receive a free weekly email sales tip, or to read his Sales Motivation Blog, visit http://www.TheSalesHunter.com