It is obvious that with the arrival of social networking "venues" we have all - well, most of us - become fixed on reaching out to people who would have previously been inaccessible to us: Facebook wiped out MySpace and almost compelled us to create our presence over there, and LinkedIn suggested that we really should have a profile if we were to be taken seriously within the business space. Soon after, Twitter enabled us to keep updated with all the latest news and gossip. All of this "social interaction" has most certainly been of value - to varying degrees, depending on one's needs. Networking without a purpose can be fun - if you have the time to spare!
I believe that before you even begin to look at engaging seriously in lots of networking effort, it is useful to look at your own temperament or disposition. This is the individual's internal desire to network and to find value and enjoyment from the whole process of building relationships.
For some people, this will be an almost irrelevant issue to debate. Their motivation to want to talk to people regularly and to network is naturally high. Talking to strangers in supermarket lines, at bus/train stops, or even in the elevators is characteristic of such people. However, even if you really enjoy talking to people, it is a proven fact that most of us are not highly confident and highly motivated networkers. In fact, statistics reveal that only one in ten people is actually comfortable in striking up a relationship with a complete stranger.
Unfortunately, this means that their own misgivings, fears and doubts potentially hinder the vast majority of people. And for successful sales professionals, networking is not a choice; it is a necessary part of the job.
Four Networking Types
In practice, you can divide people who attempt to build networking relationships into four distinct types: the Loner (little or no networking), the Socializer, the User, and the Relationship Builder.
Although a salesperson's aim is to become the fourth option, the "Relationship Builder," let's briefly look at each of these types in turn.
Loners like to do most things by themselves. They may feel that they can do it faster or better, or perhaps they don't want to bother or worry other people. They are convinced that their knowledge and skills are often superior to most people, and they ask for help only as a last resort (and when it may be too late).
The Loner is an easily recognizable type, because there are times when we all believe that we will do better ourselves than if we ask others for help. The Loner will not usually want to bother anyone else, or necessarily see much point in doing so, believing that others will be slower and will set lower standards.
Unfortunately, the Loner's attitude is a major obstacle to effective networking. We need to shift our thinking greatly in this area. We should be more willing to let others assist, and we should even ask for help more often.
Socializers try to make a friend of everyone they meet. They tend to know people's names and faces, but not what they do. Socializers are not usually systematic or ordered about following up on a sales lead - contact is random. Such a person may not listen too deeply and is quick to move on.
Although the Socializer may have a wide circle of friends and contacts, he or she knows little of substance about personal skills and resources. As a result, Socializers do not often share their skills.
The Socializer is also a random networker, following little or no formal contact system.
Users are likely to collect business cards without really connecting with people. They try to make "sales" or "pitches" on the first encounter. They talk about and focus on their own agenda rather than information about mutual needs. They often have superficial interactions, and keep score when giving favors.
People of this type do network widely, but in a way that creates little benefit for themselves or others. Even worse, this kind of networker tends to create a bad impression, and therefore can give networking an image of being about selling, taking, bargaining and keeping score.
Relationship Builders have a "giving" disposition or abundance mentality. They are generally happy to ask others for help or guidance, and listen and learn about people carefully. Builders are regularly on the lookout for useful information for which others can also benefit. They have a well-ordered and organized networking system.
This type of networker is what this article is all about - an individual who takes a long-term perspective on relationships with others and thinks more about what he or she can give or offer than about the return. This type is out there for others, or on call to offer help whenever it is needed. If they cannot help in person, they usually know someone else who can.
Maintaining High Self-Esteem
A topic as big and potentially complicated as a person's relative self-esteem cannot be covered at any level of detail in a short blog post. However, it is important to appreciate how low self-esteem can have a major impact on your networking efforts if it is not at least basically understood and addressed.
An individual with high self-esteem is likely to build his own confidence to want to network by having a positive, open and "can-do" attitude. Conversely, an individual with low self-esteem is likely to lack confidence to start with. They will convince themselves (and others) that they have little that would be of interest to others in any network - in a successful sales career, this is too high a price to pay.
Apart from the Builder, one factor connects the other three types in preventing them from networking more effectively. This is the issue of self-esteem.
The Loner believes in himself or herself, but not necessarily in others (especially relative strangers).
The Socializer likes people, but also very much wants to be liked by others (and therefore does not want to ask for favors).
Finally, the User takes a relatively selfish view of, "If I benefit or gain, I might reciprocate; otherwise I won't."
Of course, all of these types fear rejection, obligation, being too pushy or even looking weak. All of these fears or concerns about networking need to be lessened or overcome.
Do you recognize yourself amongst these four networking types?