Effective networking – a critical business skill for good times and bad
March 30, 2009
March 30, 2009
The current freight recession is taking its toll as many high quality logistics professionals are losing their jobs. It is rare when a week goes by and I do not receive a phone call or e mail from an old friend or colleague advising me that they are looking for employment. In some cases, I am contacted by people with whom I have not spoken for an extended period of time. The expectation from the caller is that even if there has been no communication for years and the relationship was not close, you will, in this time of need, provide them with leads on job opportunities.
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of seeing one of Canada’s premiere networking experts, Allison Graham, CEO of Elevate Seminars + Strategic Development, give a presentation on this topic. I was so impressed with her presentation that I purchased her book, From Business Cards to Business Relationships, Building the Ultimate Network. Allison is an intriguing person since it was only a few years ago that she was a receptionist in an eye care clinic. This highly motivated individual dedicated herself to the task of learning about networking and becoming a coach to professionals seeking to improve their networking skills. She has come a long way and has established herself as a leading authority on this topic.
One of the most important lessons one learns from Allison is that “whatever you want to accomplish can be done provided you surround yourself with the right people.” Networking is not something you turn off and on. It is not just something you do when your employment is terminated. It is “the gathering of acquaintances or contacts – the building up or maintaining of informal relationships, especially with people whose friendship could bring advantages such as job or business opportunities.” Networking is something every professional must do week in and week out. Successful networking takes “perspective, preparation and practice.” It also takes time.
In her book, she outlines the essential steps to effective networking. Allison first outlines the importance of creating a “personal brand.” She addresses a number of key elements (e.g. handshake, eye contact, mingling formula etc.) that are fundamental to creating one’s brand. Of particular importance is her focus on how to create “mini bonds,” which in Allison’s view involves the creation of genuine relationships and building a rapport with people about whom there is a genuine caring.
Allison outlines some excellent techniques for establishing these “mini bonds.” One of the key points she makes is that “the intensity of a relationship is not determined by the quantity of information shared between two people, but rather, by the quality and depth of information that is shared. The more intimate the dialogue, the deeper the bond.”
The book also addresses the topic of developing a Networking Strategy. Allison makes these telling points. “The truth behind the ultimate network is that regardless of how professional and polished your image and how well you know the fundamentals, if you aren’t meeting new people and building relationships, you’re not going to grow your network. Talking about networking and actually networking are two different things. It is amazing how people will say they want to build their network, but then a month later they still haven’t made an effort to get to know even one new contact.
Bottom line. If you want to expand your network, then you have to network. Networking takes work. . . . It takes six months or as many as six to eight casual contacts with others before you hit their radar screen and they start to ‘get” who you are. Expect it to take about 12 to 18 months of consistent and persistent effort to solidify the foundation of your ultimate network.
Of course, networking is not only helpful as a tool to have a robust Rolodex that you can access in time of difficulty. Effective networking can be critical to broadening one’s base of sales prospects or potential marketing partners, or for a host of other purposes.
To learn more about creating an effective networking strategy, buy the book. It is a quick and very good read. It can help transportation and logistics professionals create their “ultimate network” and build successful careers.
Dan Goodwill, President, Dan Goodwill & Associates Inc. has over 30 years of experience in the logistics and transportation industries in both Canada and the United States. Dan has held executive level positions in the industry including President of Yellow Transportation’s Canada division, President of Clarke Logistics (Canada’s largest Intermodal Marketing Company), General Manager of the Railfast division of TNT and Vice President, Sales & Marketing, TNT Overland Express.
Goodwill is currently a consultant to manufacturers and distributors, helping them improve their transportation processes and save millions of dollars in freight spend. Mr. Goodwill also provides consulting services to transportation and logistics organizations to help them improve their profitability. All posts by Dan Goodwill