This is a question I ask a lot at different seminars and programs. Usually, we end up defining what a “good networker” really means. After having this experience at one of my programs last week, it occurs to me that very few salespeople – even those heavily engaged in networking – really understand what makes a “good networker.”
Perhaps driven by the Internet age, I find that more and more people think that someone who is “well networked” is someone who KNOWS, or has MET, a lot of people. Think of this as sort of the business-card version of the “Facebook hero” who has 1,547 “friends,” and who has actually met about 10 of them in real life. People who collect business cards, or who collect arm’s length “acquaintanceships,” are not necessarily good networkers.
In last week’s seminar, one person used the word “connector” as a definition for a good networker, and I think that works pretty well. Good networkers are able to “connect” people with other people that they can benefit from knowing; not-so-good networkers can name-drop with the best of them, but can’t actually arrange, or get, a meeting with very many of the names they drop.
Taking it one step deeper, I think that good networkers are “hubs of value.” In other words, they are capable of GETTING value from the relationships they have with others (think referrals, business, favors, etc.), and are able to GIVE or CONDUCT value to others they know (similar to the above). Here are some other measuring sticks to determine whether you are a good networker or not a good networker:
Good networkers are successful. First and foremost, good networkers are able to produce success for THEMSELVES, on their own. They are producers. I’ve never met someone who was incapable of producing success on their own terms for themselves, but was able to produce it for others. I should point out here that “success” has its own definitions, and those definitions are not necessarily financial. For instance, the high school football coach who is capable of generating a winning team and who is able to help his kids get scholarships might not necessarily be wealthy in financial terms, but has certainly achieved success in his/her own measurement.
Good networkers have stability. Here we are, back to that “job stability” thing again. The truth is that those who are constantly expending their own energies finding new jobs for themselves have precious little left over to conduct value to others; and of course, they also have issues with generating the needed respect from others to conduct value.
Good networkers are selective. It’s impossible to generate value from or for everyone that you meet, particularly if you’re an active networker and are constantly meeting new people. Hence, good networkers are selective with the relationships they want to pursue, and once they select someone, they work very hard to generate value for them.
Good networkers are willing to be the first giver. There’s an old law which I believe is still on the books in Kansas that says, “When two cars meet at an intersection, neither shall move until the other has passed.” Think about that brilliance of lawmaking for a second; somewhere at a seldom used intersection in western Kansas, the skeletons of two old farmers sit in their Model T’s, still exhorting the other to move first. That’s a good analogy for how many potentially good networking relationships die. If you are always waiting for the other to give first, you run the danger of never getting any value. Along these lines, good networkers seek out MUTUAL relationships and not just coattails.
Good networkers never stop. I have encountered a number of people in my travels who came to me with the reputation of being “great networkers,” or even “networking gurus.” I’ve always been amazed at how many of these people seem to have retired, or withdrawn, from networking efforts. They’re not encouraging new contacts or new relationships, and seem content to rest upon whatever laurels have bestowed on them. The problem with this is both simple and obvious – people retire, they change jobs, they move. The network that you have today might not be the network you have tomorrow. For that reason, a good networker always remains open to new relationships.
There are, of course, many other attributes to good networking, and many books have been written on the subject. Look at the criteria above – are you getting the networking results you want? If not, maybe you should look at the above criteria and make a change in 2017.