Steps to Networking – Step 35: Position Yourself

Written By Rick Frishman Published April 7th, 2010

STEP 35: POSITION YOURSELF

“Network everywhere and with everyone. Don’t wait for a special occasion to enjoy the benefits of networking. You never know where you will make a connection that can change your life.” MELISSA WAHL, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR FEMALE EXECUTIVES

Networks are built around the exchange of information and networking is information intensive. To be both successful and sustaining, networks must constantly receive an influx of new and relevant information; information that network members can take, analyze and then parcel out to their network partners who then can make the best use of it.

To efficiently utilize the stream of networking information requires knowledge, expert knowledge. First, it requires the knowledge to understand the full implications of the information received and what it means. Second, it requires knowledge about the members of your network, their needs, capabilities and capacities. With this knowledge, members who receive information can then analyze it, determine who can best use it and allocate it to those network partners who can benefit from it.

So, to build and maintain a successful network, you must be an expert. The more knowledgeable you become, the more desirable you will be to potential network partners. Your pretty face, clever wit and winning personality may initially get you noticed, but you will fade as fast as last month’s news if you don’t have an expertise that others desire.

By becoming an expert, you will make yourself more attractive to those who can give you the greatest help — the in crowd, the movers and shakers, the decision makers and the power brokers. Those at the top, the people with influence, want to associate with the best. They want to do business and socialize with them, and so should you. The surest route for reaching the top is by becoming an expert in your field.

Your expertise is the exchange that you give back to your network partners in return for their help, it’s your ticket to the dance. Being an expert simply means that you know what you’re doing. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re the world’s most recognized authority, although you may be. It also doesn’t mean that you know absolutely everything about your field . . . no one does!

When you’re acknowledged to be an expert, people want to hear what you have to say. Invitations to participate in meetings, panel discussions, workshops and conferences pour in. You will be asked to write about your expertise, enter your work in competitions and contribute your efforts for charitable causes. These opportunities will give you great exposure, terrific PR, extend your influence and introduce to community and industry leaders. In addition, you will be coveted as a speaker, teacher and competition judge, which will introduce you to bright new talents, who will extend the demographic of your network to a younger generation.

You probably are expert in more areas than you realize. If you operate a business, you’re probably an expert in your field. You’re also probably an expert in activities in which you spend lots of time at such as being a single mother, making ravioli, growing orchids, throwing pots, knitting sweaters, operating a home-based office, coaching a Pee Wee League team or skiing. In addition, you’re an expert in intangible areas including being well organized, fair minded, efficient, reliable, punctual, reasonable, wise, understanding, considerate and courageous.

Your expertise enhances your value to your network. Each area of expertise adds special flavors that make your contributions to the network desirable and unique; they give your contributions added worth. For example, your ability to operate a home-based office may prove invaluable to a network member who just left a large corporate job to start a new business in his/her garage; your even handedness and good judgment may help resolve troubling differences within your networking group.

Expertise is always with you. If you were awakened in the middle of the night and cross examined about your area of interest, despite being groggy, despite being extremely cross, you could snap off all the right answer right there on the spot. When networking opportunities arise, you possess the information, you have the expert knowledge that you can use, but you must be prepared to showcase it.

Be alert to opportunities to demonstrate your expertise and be prepared to capitalize on them. Don’t abruptly or inappropriately force your expertise on listeners, but be patient. Wait for appropriate openings when what you have to say will be relevant and further the conversation. Learn to bide your time and listen to what others are saying. Then, when and if opportunity knocks, move fast because it may not come again.

NETWORKING NUGGET

Whenever possible, Ken Browning, a prominent Beverly Hills entertainment attorney, always tries to help his clients by introducing them to his extensive contacts. Browning represented a well-known celebrity who was featured in an infomercial for a major cosmetics company. While representing her, he developed a relationship with a management executive for the cosmetics company, who subsequently asked Browning to represent the company in a number of matters. Several years later, hair stylist Nick Chavez asked Browning to become his partner in developing a line of hair care products. Browning connected Chavez with the cosmetics company, which showed great interest in his line, but the company ultimately decided to go in a different direction.

A few years later, the cosmetics executive left the company to become the director of beauty at a cable-shopping network. In a conversation with her, Browning inquired whether she would be interested in selling Chavez’s product line through her network. As a result, Perfect Plus, the Browning/Chavez company, went on the network, where it sold out its initial offering in record time and became the network’s best selling hair care line.

Today nine years later, Perfect Plus is a highly successful company. It remains the shopping network’s number one hair-care product vendor in the US and on the network’s affiliated companies in Germany and the United Kingdom. The success of Perfect Plus, also boosted Browning’s law practice by attracting a steady stream of companies that sell their products via infomercials and home shopping outlets and the television exposure increased Chavez’s salon clientele.

In your quest for knowledge, learn as much as you possibly can about your new contacts and your network partners. When you meet people, find out as much about them as you can, become an expert on them. Discover what they do, what they like, what they dislike and what they need. Identify their interests them and get information about their families and backgrounds. Discretely ask them about themselves, get them talking. Also ask your network partners about them.

Note when a contact mentions that she is involved in boating or wants to get her kids into a drama camp. Then train yourself to look for published items about those interests and send them to her with a brief note, “Thought this might interest you.” Use your knowledge about your contacts to connect them with business contacts who could help them.

Finding leads for network partners is an essential part of networking. In order to hook your partners up with the best potential matches, requires you to know what they want and need.

• Question your network partners about their interests
• Visit their places of business
• Discover what they want,
• Find out what they need and
• Ask how you can help.

Learning about your network partners also has the secondary benefits of broadening your knowledge, exposing you to and teaching you about new areas. These new areas could help you in the future and send you in directions that you would be impossible to presently imagine.

(Excerpted from NETWORKING MAGIC: Making Connections That Will Change Your Life By Rick Frishman and Jill Lublin With Mark Steisel)

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