We build networks so that they can work for us, but how can we put them to work in the direction we want while being tactful?
As we go about our networking, we’ve all encountered “those people” who clearly are looking to make a sale, not build a relationship. Whether they push their business card into your hand and walk away or they send you through their sales ringer, these disingenuous sales tactics make us all feel the same way: belittled, like we’re just dollar signs.
In the end, the best way to use your network is by adding value to their businesses. If you can do that, you’re tactfully using your network. There are a couple of ways to add value: (1) by sending referrals or introductions to strategic partners, (2) by providing information, and (3) by providing opportunities.
Send referrals and introductions is an incredibly easy way to use your network. By doing this, you’re staying top of mind and building up credit with those you send the referrals and introductions to, but how do you turn this into a sale? The trick here is to provide hints as to what you’re looking for. For example, if I send a client to a business coach, I’d include in that email that it is great that we have this trusted relationship where we can send clients to each other and know that a good job will be done.
Wording when hinting that you want a client matters. For some people, they’ rather you say that you hope to see a referral from that person soon. Others prefer you mention nothing at all. Knowing you connection is the key to ensuring that you make the right type of statement.
Providing information can be a great way to remind your network that you’re an expert in your field and that you care enough about this connection that you wanted to provide useful information to them. The key is the information must be useful. This is not an easy area for someone like me, but an individual who is constantly scanning the news and stays up to date on trade magazines or current events would be able to utilize this strategy very easily. You can do this by creating email lists, but be sure to only email useful information to those who would want it. Adding people to your email list that would not be interested in the content would end up hurting your relationship.
Providing opportunities is one of my favorite approaches to using your network. The example I have right now is a series of seminars that I’ll be hosting to accelerate businesses. These seminars call for speakers on topics that I am not as familiar with, so I was able to reach out to my network and ask others to join. Because the audience will be composed of potential new clients for these individuals, this is a great opportunity for my connections to establish themselves as experts in their fields.
There are a few ways to tactfully use your network. It all comes down to being respectful and trying to help others first. There’s nothing wrong with ensuring that people know who you are and what you do, but once that crosses into being too pushy or overly salesy, you’re no longer being respectful of others.