We have heard it a hundred times or more, “it’s not what you know, but who you know” that matters, but how true is it?
Surely career advancement or success in business comes down to credibility and authenticity, not simply the power of our professional network.
The reality is that whilst credibility and authenticity are important, having a quality professional network of people we do business with is equally so.
So how is your network looking?
Here’s a test, ask yourself how comfortable you are in asking someone in your network for something big – like money to invest in a new venture or the development of a new product?
If that has made the back of your neck bristle, then you have just had a reality check that tells you exactly where your relationships are at.
What it comes down to is trust, credibility and our professional reputation.
This is important as we are in for a rocky ride over the coming months as the world finds a way to live with COVID and what can help us through is the strength of our professional relationships.
Now more than ever, trusted relationships are a precious currency. Our reputation will precede us when it comes to:
- Winning work or investment for your business
- An introduction to a decision maker
- Collaborating on a project
Which brings us back to our originating question, how well are you regarded by those who matter most to you in relation to what you do?
A good test is by measuring the amount of work that comes our way without too much hunting. If less than 50% of your work is being generated from referrals, you already have your answer.
As a brilliant mentor of mine once asked me: “how often do your prospects and customers think of you unprompted?”
I had no idea and when I set about discovering the answer, my business escalated.
So how do you go about testing your professional ecosystem of support:
Be someone who doesn’t just breathe in
When you show up for another person don’t focus solely on what you are there to get, think about what you can give. Think of the value that you bring to the conversation, the meeting, the relationship.
Ensure that you are generous with your time, listening and encouraging with your ideas. Commit to building a relationship that lasts rather than treating the meeting as a transactional activity.
Some cannot make this critical distinction – the meet is always about what they want, what they can get – they may know a lot of people, but the quality of those connections will be shallow in nature, so you need to ensure that your connections run far deeper.
Build yourself ten quality connectors
These are people who actively think of you, value what you do and will (unprompted) drive the right opportunity to your business.
World renowned psychologist Robert Cialdini talks about authority as one of his six principles of influence. When others talk up our credentials or experience, those leads have a much higher conversion rate than anything we could directly create.
That improves even further when the person recommending us is held in high regard by others and if you have ten of these connections who recommend one person every 2 months, that’s sixty very warm opportunities a year.
Cultivating your connection to these connectors is time and effort well spent and is all about being authentic and the way you ‘are’ as opposed ‘what you do.
Be a connector for others
Another key to building your connections is to be a ‘giver,’ as when we give others feel compelled to return the favour.
So, if you want to build a professional network of connectors you are going to have to contribute to the community by being a ‘giver’ yourself.
Ask yourself how often you search through your network to introduce someone of value to someone else without expecting anything in return.
The process of network building is not linear and will not work when we go into a conversation seeking to get by giving.
If you hold concerns that you would be the only ‘giver’ in your network, then that tells you that you need to get busy cultivating your garden of those whose values and qualities are aligned with yours and whose reputations are intact.
Remember the trust equation
To be trustworthy there are certain aspects of behaviour that add to that, and some that detract. The one that resonates strongest for me is the Trusted Advisor equation:
Trustworthiness = Credibility + Reliability + Intimacy / Self – Orientation
The more we can be people of our word, when our experience and knowledge is aligned with our ability to be someone to be counted on and we are able to be the holder of confidential information provided in trust, we become people we’re proud of being.
Trust is the easiest way to drive more like-minded people to you than anything else and makes asking the ‘big’ questions of your network so much easier.
Check your intention
Is your intention to truly be of service – to deliver value in a way that matters to your network or is it to simply convert a transaction in the moment?
Are you understanding the challenges of your network and their goals for the longer term and helping your network to meet those goals?
Or are you all about you?
People will remember how you made them feel. They’ll also remember your expertise in the way you navigate and clarified what will be right for them, what you have added to help them.
This is how your reputation grows and trust builds, helping to foster a stronger network, one built on authenticity, values and reputation – now that’s a network worth having.
Written by Ingrid Maynard.
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