The word network is made up of two root words:  net and work.  If you ignore either of them, your networking activities will kill your business!

We often associate the first root word, net, with fishing.  Successful fisherman spend a lot of time checking and mending their nets.   The net is only as strong as the connections between the strands.  When a connection is weak, the net breaks.  The bigger the fish or greater the quantity, the more stress is put on those connections.  Once a hole develops, the connections around it become more stressed and weaken, leading to additional breakage and eventually a hole so large you catch almost nothing.  The same happens in your network.  Weak connections eventually break and weaken the connections around them.

On the other hand, a strong net:

1.   Yields profitable catches.

The stronger the net and fewer the holes, the more fish you catch.depositphotos_8859615-stock-photo-fishnet
The stronger the net and fewer the holes, the bigger fish you catch because the net doesn’t break.

2.  Grows with time.

As you strengthen the connections in your net, those connections begin to join their nets to yours.  When that happens you’re not the only one fishing.  Your connections’ nets are fishing with you creating an expanded, informal sales force.

3.   Elevates your perceived value.

When your net is strongly connected to the nets people of influence, others perceive you as an influencer too.  When you’re connected to people they trust, some of that trust transfers to you.  When your value increases and trust is transferred, you move from chasing prospects to attracting them.

4.   Creates loyalty.

Strong connections stay connected.  Think about the last time you tried to untie a knot.   If the knot was loose, it probably wasn’t much work to untangle it.  If, however, the knot was tight, it was probably extremely difficult, if not impossible, to untangle.  In fact, when a knot is really tight, attempting to untangle it can often cause it to tighten even more.  If the connections in your net are tight, it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for people (competitors) attempting to interfere with your connections (lure them away) to have any success.

The key to creating a strong net is the second root word—work–but probably not the work you think.  Successful networking work isn’t about impressing people with your product knowledge or sales skills or having the perfect close.  The work that makes the net strong is relationship development.  Without putting in the work to strengthen the connections in the net, your net is weak, broken and often useless. Many people believe they have a strong net because they know a lot of people or have a lot of “connections” on LinkedIn® or Facebook®.  They don’t recognize or are ignoring the symptoms of weak or broken connections.  These symptoms may include:

  1.  Stagnant or declining sales.
  2.  Personal frustration.
  3.  Inability to reach ideal prospects.
  4.  Feeling like you’re spinning your wheels.
  5.  Difficulty setting appointments.

We spend a lot of time trying to get introductions to our most coveted prospects through our connections.   Unfortunately, we often ask weak connections for help.  Remember, an acquaintance is not the same as a relationship.  Others are most likely to make introductions when they truly know and trust you.  Successful networking requires investing in relationship development.  One of the most effective ways to do this is to come from a place of contribution which was discussed in depth in the previous blog.

If you’re not sure what to do next in your networking remember this:  “When fishermen can’t go to sea, they mend their nets.”  (Author unknown)  In business this translates to, “When you don’t have a formal networking opportunity, work on strengthen the connections.  (Even when you do have opportunities, strengthen your net.)”  If you’re not working with a prospect, build a relationship!

Fishermen mending net quote with pic