Learn successful networking basics from A to Z

If I had to name the single characteristic shared by all the truly successful people I've met over a lifetime, I'd say it is the ability to create and nurture a network of contacts. I could lose all my money and all my factories, but leave me my contacts and I'll be back as strong as ever in three to five years. Networking is that important.

The alphabet is a great place to start as you build your network -- organize your contacts from A to Z.

A is for antennae, which should be up every waking moment. Never pass up an opportunity to meet new people.

B is for birthdays. It's always advantageous to know the birthdays of your contacts. You wouldn't believe how much business our sales reps write up when they call on their customers' birthdays.

C is for contact-management system. Have your data organized so that you can cross-reference entries and find the information you need quickly.

D is for dig your well before you're thirsty.

E is for exchange and expand. When two people exchange dollar bills, each still has only a dollar. But when two people exchange networks, they each have access to both.

F is for Facebook and all other social media. These sites open unlimited possibilities for networking. Use them wisely.

G is for gatekeeper. There usually is a trusted assistant trained to block or grant your access. Don't waste their time, and make sure you acknowledge their significant role in reaching the boss.

H is for hearing. Make note of news you hear affecting someone in your network so you can reference it at the appropriate time.

I is for information. You can't (and shouldn't) talk about business all the time. Learn everything you can about your contacts' families, pets, hobbies and interests. Humanize your approach.

J is for job security, which you will always have if you develop a good network.

K is for keeping in touch. If your network is going to work, you have to stay plugged in and keep the wires humming.

L is for lessons. The first real networking school I signed up for after I graduated from college was Toastmasters. Dale Carnegie schools are designed to achieve similar goals.

M is for mentors. In the best of all possible worlds, your role models can become your mentors, helping you, advising you, guiding you, even lending you their network as you build your own.

N is for a network of contacts. A network can enrich your life.

O is for outgoing. Be the first to introduce yourself, lend a hand, or send congratulations for a job well done.

P is for people. You have to love people to be a good networker.

Q is for quality. A large network is worthless unless the people in it can be counted on to answer in an emergency at 2 a.m.

R is for reciprocity. You give; you get. You no give; you no get. If you only do business with people you know and like, you won't be in business very long.

S is for six degrees of separation, the thought that there is a chain of no more than six people that link every person. Someone you know knows someone who knows someone you want to know.

T is for telephone. Landline, cell, Internet -- this is a critical tool for staying in touch with your network.

U is for urgency. Don't be slow to answer the call, even if you never expect to have your effort repaid.

V is for visibility. You've got to get involved in organizations and groups to get connected, but don't confuse visibility with credibility. You have to give in order to get.

W is not only for whom you know, but also for who knows you.

X is for the extra mile. Your network contacts will go the extra mile for you, and you must be willing to do the same for them.

Y is for yearly check-in. Find a way, even if it's just a holiday card, to stay in touch.

Z is for ZIP code -- do you have plenty represented in your network?

Mackay's Moral: You don't have to know everything as long as you know the people who do.

Harvey Mackay is a Minneapolis businessman and author. Contact him at 612-378-6202 or send e-mail to harvey@mackay.com. His column is distributed by United Feature Syndicate.

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