3 golden rules for making your network more valuable

3 golden rules for making your network more valuable
16 October 2019

It’s not just building a network that is an art. How to make the most use of it is probably even more important.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the value of having a broad network and how to build it up. The article proved popular, which didn’t surprise me. Just about anyone appreciates that those who have a broad network find it easier to create their own luck.

However, having a long list of personal contacts is only one part of the equation. How do you nurture your network on a day-to-day basis to elevate what you can get out of it? How do you best prepare your network so that when you need it, the effective, irreplaceable help you are hoping for will come from it?

Just about anyone appreciates that those who have a broad network find it easier to create their own luck.

If you want to know how to squeeze the most long-term value out of your little black book, today’s column is for you.

And just like I did with the last article about networks, I am keeping it down to what I have experienced are the three most important aspects.

#1: Always be generous with support

Let’s be honest, business is about transactions and furthering your own cause. We are all in it for ourselves.

However, that doesn’t need to stop you from helping others without getting an immediate return. Not every human interaction you have needs to be a billable transaction.

Quite the opposite. I myself am widely known as someone who people can call on for all sorts of help:

  • Need a second opinion on a tricky situation?
  • Got a document that needs a fresh set of eyes?
  • Looking for intel on the latest pricing trends in your industry?

I reply to every single email. Wherever and whenever feasible, I offer my help.

This approach is all the more important when you are turning someone down. When I receive a proposal that genuinely isn’t for me, I always try to end my reply with an offer to help with one specific sub-aspect. Can’t help with a fundraise? Offer to be a guinea pig reader of the pitch deck!

Once you have reached that level of being known as both a well-connected and helpful person, you’ll find the value of your network to grow exponentially.

Over time, you will get a reputation as someone who is not just well-connected but also genuinely useful to know. You’ll then find that others become more open to help you when you approach them.

You can view this approach as “short-term pain with long-term gain”.

Once you have reached that level of being known as both a well-connected and helpful person, you’ll find the value of your network to grow exponentially.

Trust me on this one. Been there, done that.

2: Proactively connect others

Personal introductions are invaluable. One cannot stress this point enough.

Have you read any of my fundraising-related articles? If so, you will have noticed me repeatedly banging on about how many investors will only look at fundraising proposals if they came on the back of a personal introduction. After all, what’s someone to do who receives 5,000 investment proposals by email every year?

Introductions are a complex subject, and there is a whole etiquette around them.

However, one aspect is eminently clear. You are more likely to get help with introductions if you yourself are known to regularly help with worthwhile introductions.

So, how can you make yourself known as a valuable introducer?

Proactively connect contacts where you feel there might be an area of mutual interest and valuable overlap (but make sure to check with both parties in advance – introduction etiquette 101).

Since so few people are doing it, you’ll be remembered all the more. Which, in turn, opens the door for you if you ever need to ask for an introduction yourself. And just like with the previous point, word about such generosity tends to spread.

3: Never be afraid to ask!

There must be something in your work life right now where you could do with a bit of outside help? How much time did you recently spend on thinking about who in your existing network might be able to help?

I tend to find that we all make too small an effort to regularly and systematically contemplate who might support us in whatever it is we are currently working on.

Might this be because we are too afraid of asking?

I have long concluded that we all make way too much out of approaching people to ask them for help. That’s true both for friends and strangers. More often than not, people are willing to help you. There are even a lot of people out there who ENJOY assisting others or who will feel flattered if you ask them for their expertise.

You could turn this into a game and commit yourself to seek out one useful person in your network every week, approach him or her about something, and then keep a journal about what came out of it (and what other lessons you learned).

I bet you that after six months of doing so, you’ll have massively improved your skills for approaching people. You’ll also likely get all sorts of unexpected benefits and lessons out of it.

One of the best things you can spend some of your time on

Your professional network is a bit like a garden. To get the most use and joy out of it, you need to tend to it on an ongoing basis. Just having a list of names and phone numbers in your (digital) Rolodex doesn’t cut it.

There are a few simple methods that you can easily turn into habits, which will increase what you can get out of your network by a multiple. None of what I set out above needs to cost you any money, but it could yield huge dividends – not just financially, but also socially.

There are a few simple methods that you can easily turn into habits, which will increase what you can get out of your network by a multiple.

You should regularly spend a bit of quality thinking about what you can do to make better use of your network and increase its benefits. If you aren’t, you are missing out on a crucial trick.

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