What Is Business Networking?

Volume 7 • Issue 3

WELCOME to our e-newsletter that answers the question: “What is business networking?”

Our previous news began with a special focus on building relationships at work; we are continuing to focus on this important topic by providing helpful hints in this newsletter about how to expand your business via networking. I am pleased to note that I’ve released my booklet, “Work Your Network, Making Impactful Business Connections” which provides tools and techniques to develop stronger and more appropriate networks.

In my book I propose a simple concept – that Networking is really small talk with a target. The secret is in knowing how to turn casual conversations into useful connections. Creating meaningful connections is about relationships and people, and savvy business people know how to make those connections work for them. So what is business networking, and how can you personally prepare to be great at it?

Recently AIM news focused on networking styles; our newsletter presented a self-assessment activity that identified four specific styles people use when they reach out to build business networks: Audacious, Cautious, Tireless and Supportive. In this newsletter I take a practical approach, guiding you through the journey of the Types of Networks and the Four Stages to get there. Enjoy the journey…

In This Issue

What is Business Networking?

“Networking is a process of planning and making contacts and sharing information for professional and personal goals.” – Leslie Smith of National Association of Female Executive

The traditional organization was one of hierarchy and structure where everyone had rigidly defined roles. In today’s world these traditional organizations have been replaced by more flexible organizations that can successfully handle change.

Throughout your professional career, networking is one of the critical skills necessary to becoming a successful leader and climbing the organizational ladder. Even if you would characterize your current networking abilities as good, you may feel that certain areas could be improved upon. Some examples are: ways you communicate, handling personality differences, or perhaps a desire to develop networking behaviors that work. Failing to ‘Work Your Network’ occurs frequently and is a common cause of unsuccessful work climates, which may have a negative impact on an individual’s career.

Business Networking is really small talk with a target. The secret is knowing how to turn casual conversations into useful connections. With clear goals and bottom-line skills, networking works!

So What is Business Networking?

• The deliberate process of exchanging information, resources, support, and access in such a way as to create mutually beneficial alliances for personal and professional success.
• Building the right relationships with the right people to provide information, support, influence and development.
• Creating collective environments where people learn from each other, share resources and build positive working relationships.

NETWORKING IS NETWORKING IS NOT
 Making contacts Selling
Promoting something of value Being impersonal
 Asking assertively and offering graciously Manipulating
Giving with no expectation Keeping score
 Serving others Using others
  A way of life A technique

Types of Networks

Human beings are social animals and engage in a variety of interactions with others. Therefore, we have several different types of networks to enhance our personal as well as professional lives. Here are the four types of networks that define our relationships with the many individuals on whom we rely, and who, in turn, rely on us.

1) PERSONAL NETWORKS

Your family, friends, and close associates. You usually choose these types of networks through mutual interests, liking and long-term connections. Personal networks are more social than other types of networks, and are based on exchange of help and support.

2) ORGANIZATIONAL NETWORKS

Business teams, project groups, committees, and councils. These networks are focused on whom you need to know in order to meet objectives within a timeframe. These networks are based on power, knowledge, and influence. One strategy when joining a new department or organization is to identify as quickly as possible the organizational network – especially those with power (overt and covert) and influence.

3) PROFESSIONAL NETWORKS

Colleagues and clients. Professional networks are based on common work interests and tasks in the workplace, and are about what people know.

4) STRATEGIC NETWORKS

External contacts and connections. With increased competition and rapid technological advances, organizations cannot predict the future or know what will prove helpful. Therefore, they form alliances with other companies/ vendors to help them.

Networks are…
•   comprised of people and groups
•   flexible and permeable
•   powerful for generating solutions, seizing opportunities and getting things done
•   vehicles for professional development
•   keys to organizational success

Four Networking Stages

Now that you are familiar with the different types of networks, it is important to understand how your networking relationships get established. Networking is a process; it is the opposite of an instantaneous or isolated incident. Networking takes time, effort and careful nurturing of the relationship to bear fruit. That is, after selecting a group of people who can contribute to your success – and to whose success you can contribute – you work on building the relationship.

Consider the networking process as consisting of four different stages: Getting, Exchanging, Understanding and Mutual Benefit. This process is a building block of four steps, with mutual benefit being the highest step, or stage. Look at each of these stages:

STAGE 1: Getting
Networking is not just about taking, although it is true that beginning networkers usually focus on “what’s in it for me.” Most people who begin to network focus, at least initially, on trying to get something for themselves. There’s nothing wrong with wanting your efforts to pay off. But that’s only part of the story. The best networkers approach the process from the point of view that they want something and they want to be a valuable contact in turn. Think of your own experiences with people. When someone helps you, don’t you want to give back even more than you got? Just chalk it up to human nature!

STAGE 2: Exchanging
The point of networking is to exchange something of value. Trades do accomplish that. The taking and trading stage usually produces a one time networking outcome – you gave and got something. The smart networker doesn’t stop here – s/he works to create a networking relationship out of this one time trade

STAGE 3: Understanding
This phase builds the relationship by teaching other people what you need – and learning what they need. Take the time to be interested in your person and his/her business. Put your antenna up for resources, ideas, tips, information or access that you could give to the contact.

Remember the old adage “It’s not what you know it’s who you know?” This is too simple for a savvy networker. What you know is important. It’s your skills, experiences, knowledge. Who you know is important, too. These people are your resources for ideas, referrals, references, and assistance in general. More important than what and you know is who knows you. Networking is about making who knows you as important as what you know and who you know.

STAGE 4: Mutual Benefit
This is the stage when the relationship becomes most valuable. All relationship networking aims for mutual trust, so that when each party recommends the other, it can be done knowing that this contact will reflect well on the individual making the recommendation.

what is business networking

Conclusion

So what is business networking? You can now answer this question since you are now familiar with the different types of networks, and the incremental stages that culminate in a win-win outcome for you and your networking partner(s), you’re ready to begin to create powerful networks of your own. Of course, there may be a learning gap between understanding and doing; recognizing this, AIM offers training modules and presentations on how to perfect your networking skills. To jump start this process, AIM is offering to present a module on networking for your staff, free of charge, at your next meeting.

For more information, please contact AIM Strategies® at info@aim-strategies.com or write me a personal email at: yael@aim-strategies.com

About AIM Strategies®

AIM Strategies® Applied Innovative Management® is a results-driven Human Capital Consulting firm specializing in the areas of: Global Leadership Development, Co-located and Virtual Team Facilitation, Cross Cultural Communications, and Change Integration Services. To request information about AIM’s experiential learning methods (5D’s™ Consulting/Proprietary Training Methodology and ACT™ Coaching Process), please email info@aim-strategies.com. In upcoming issues of this newsletter, we’ll update you on tips and techniques related to raising your innovative management IQ. We are confident that the solutions we develop fit your needs and culture. Please forward this newsletter to your colleagues and visit www.aim-strategies.com  to learn more about how our services unlock the people potential of your organization!

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