A Simple Lesson to Successful Networking: Get in the Flow!
By John-Paul Hatala Ph.D.
You’ve most undoubtedly heard the saying “Knowledge is Power.” Most likely you’ve acknowledged the fact that this old adage is quite accurate and basically common sense. The more knowledge you possessed as a student in high school on a particular topic, the better you were at writing your exams.
The interesting concept of exams is that if you don’t know what is going to be on the test you’re basically going to have to review the entire content in order to be successful. Think back to a time when you were required to study. How did you do on the exam when the teacher gave you a solid outline of what was to be included on the test? How did you do when the teacher provided little information? If the teacher provided little information on what was going to be on the exam, you most likely studied content that was not on the test. The key was to determine which areas would be covered and then to focus your studying of those areas in detail and only browse through the rest of the material. This holds true for gathering information for the purposes of networking.
Which information is useful and what can you use for another day? This is a question that needs to be answered if you are to be successful at networking. When you become part of the flow of information, you allow yourself to gather and maintain bits of information that may have immediate or long term impact on your objectives. Getting in the flow does not necessarily lead you to a solution but provides you with the content necessary to identify some of the areas required to become successful.
Let’s take as an example of you trying to sell one of your products — a widget. Your widget is not new to the market but has some features that are quite unique. You’ve been selling your widget for about a year and have a general idea of the sales cycle, which is around eight weeks. It runs from when you first introduce the widget to a new prospect to the actual purchase of your widgets. Your sales cycle becomes a framework or timeline that helps you gauge your progress. If you’re not moving from step-to-step within that cycle, you know that the likelihood of making the sale drastically decreases. Throughout this period, your goal is to gather as much information as you can about the prospect in order to increase the chances of closing the sale. The questions following are examples of those you might ask:
- How can this product benefit the prospect?
- What is the prospect doing now without your widget?
- When will the prospect decide to buy your widget?
Is there more than one person involved in making the decision to purchase your widget?
When do they plan on buying your widget or a similar product?
As in the sales situation above, the more information you gather, the better the position you are in to determine whether you have a chance at being successful in your networking efforts. By being in the flow, you have a chance of gathering data that will assist you in reaching your full potential.
Here are the 5 top strategies for getting in the networking flow:
- Acknowledging that information is always available, just need to find it.
- Research your network and what information exists within it.
- Remember, to get information, you have to be willing to share it.
- Create a knowledge repository.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for information.
If you’re not in the flow, many of the opportunities you identify will remain only opportunities. Converting these to solutions is something that does not happen overnight and requires the ability to see things through. Getting in the flow will allow you to maximize the number of contacts who can provide information to help you reach a solution.
Dr. Hatala is currently an Assistant Professor at Louisiana State University in the School of Human Resource Education and Workforce Development, Baton Rouge. His academic research focuses on the transition toward re-employment, human resource development, social capital in the workplace, barriers to entrepreneurship, and organizational development.