Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Evolution of Networking, Part II

Are You a Super Connector?

100% of my clients want networking to be easier. Me too. It seems to come so naturally for some and still others seem to navigate at a higher level. If you've attended more than a few networking events, you've probably crossed paths with them. These are the Super Connectors!

A natural connector sees connections where others may not. They love putting people together, sharing ideas to help others build their business, gain knowledge or connecting them to resources. They share freely with out expecting to get anything back because their joy comes from the connecting process.

If you are a natural connector you are motivated to continuously improve the process. More connections equal more joy and fulfillment. If this sounds like you, you’re on your way to Enlightened Networking. You are a natural born Super Connector.

My personal journey to becoming a Super Connector has included both natural ability and conscious evolution. In every position I’ve ever held, I gravitated toward matching people with people and resources. When I ventured into sales and discovered networking as a business development vehicle, I began as a “Neanderthal” or more gently, a networking newbie. It was all about me and what I was getting. I didn’t see the correlation of tapping into my strength as a Connector and the exponential power of purposefully building a network of mutually beneficial relationships until I joined a leads group in the mid 90’s. While that worked well, I found myself continuing to invest a lot of energy in others to generate the leads I needed to meet my goals.

I had an AHA! moment the year I doubled my sales (kind of like discovering fire) and my paradigm shifted. When I looked back after that experience, I knew I would never work as hard as I did to tap into the abundance of opportunities that could be gained through being a Super Connector.

The Super Connector phenomenon comes about in two ways; either by intentional evolution or by a natural state of being. You probably know people like those we just described. Those who come by their connecting ability so naturally it appears effortless. This may not be you. No matter where you are in the evolutionary process of building a network of relationships that are mutually beneficial, you can move into the benefits of enlightened networking. You moved yourself this far through the process with a hit or miss approach. Now, moving through the evolutionary process to becoming a Super Connector may simply involve doing more of what you are already doing with purpose and focus.

Here is what I have learned about networking over the years:
1. Networking is NOT selling.
2. Not everyone is my customer.
3. Not everyone who could refer business to me will.
4. Not everyone I could refer business to will earn that business.
5. Networking is a strategic marketing tactic that increases visibility, credibility and opportunity.
6. Effective networking is about building mutually beneficial relationships.
7. Networking done on purpose can be the most powerful tool to set you apart from the competition in any marketplace.
8. Networking done with a plan taps into people, resources, and opportunities your competition may never discover and yields amazing results.
9. Relationships built through networking can last a lifetime.
10. You take your network with you no matter where you go.

When I launched Connectworks I began to test all I knew about networking at a higher level. I would not be where I am if I’d followed the traditional, safe sales and marketing route. Connectworks is moving into a national presence in the marketplace. We evolved from a coaching and training company into an executive consulting and strategic business development firm. We apply the principles we teach to every aspect of our own business planning and development. We coach clients to apply the principles we teach in the same way. Connectworks is now licensing other consultants and companies to offer the Networking for Busy People model to their clients and employees. We are well known in our local market and are now expanding our reach in the western region. We are on our way to fulfilling our vision of having the Busy People principles in practice in every state in the US. It is a big dream and the only way I could make it happen was to build a SUPER network of those who could derive mutual benefit from our shared growth.

My question for you is, “What dreams do you have for your business? If your business could be all you want it to be, what would it look like?” Now, start to think about how you can build and tap into your network to make that happen.

Ready to evolve? Let’s talk about the fundamental principles of the Super Connector. We’ve packaged them in the Power Principles for Busy People™:

  • Principle 1: Get Clear – Know your business. Busy People who get results know who they are and what they really do for their customers, employees, and community. They also know what they need whether it’s more customers, more partners, more visibility, more resources, or more feedback. And they know how to ask for it.
  • Principle 2: Get Focused – Know your target market. Busy People who get results have a clear picture of their bull’s eye target audience. Not only do they know where they live, work, and play they know what motivates them to make buying decisions.
  • Principle 3: Get Partners – Know who shares your target market. Busy People who get results know two things. One, they know who complements the services they provide. Two, they tap into their prospects rolodex to access a less obvious network of service providers and more. They connect with those other services providers through added value, opportunities, and resources.
  • Principle 4: Get Connected – Super Connectors know where their target market shows up and they put themselves in those places. Busy People who get results are connected. They are visible and credible in the arenas where their prospects and partners inhabit.

In order to evolve to the next level, you have to know where you’re starting point. Where are you in the evolutionary cycle?

The Neanderthal Networker or “Survival of the Fittest”Are you focused on your basic needs? That means SALES. If sales is your only focus you are missing a world of opportunities. Begin to take advantage of the opportunities around you by tapping into resources, partners, and events.

The Medieval Networker or “Man Discovers Tools”Are you using referral sources and organizations yet frustrated because you are giving more than you get in return? Apply the Power Principles above to gain clarity and focus. These tools equip you to craft the right message for the right markets, add the best partners and direct you where to connect for the highest, long-term returns!

The Enlightened Networker or “The Super Connector”Are you already well known within your business community and beyond? Have you positioned yourself as a value-added resource? Fantastic!

Regardless of where you are in the evolutionary cycle, ask yourself these questions to further define your problem areas and what you need to do to move forward:

  1. Am I working too hard to get the sales I need?
  2. Am I working with people who understand the value of reciprocity?
  3. Am I asking for what I want and need? Opportunities, resources, and feedback?
  4. Am I getting what I need from the key players in my network? If not, is it them or is it me?
  5. What needs to change to improve results? Change in players, shift in my own communication, a more focused approach? Fine tune my systems?

Becoming a Super Connector doesn’t happen overnight. Creating the business of your dreams takes planning and focus. Be thoughtful, intelligent and strategic. It’s just smart! When you use your time wisely in the workplace, you have more for yourself and those important to you!

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