ROR Essential Elements - 5 Maintaining your network

 

Return on Relationships is about Return on Investment, where your investment is in the time and energy it takes to build a network of positive advocates – people who like, trust and respect you, and you them.

 

Previous articles have discussed the first three Essential Elements, your Personal Proposition, your Business Proposition, Investing your time and Taking the time to get to know people.  These four Elements ensure that your Reputation in the Marketplace are maximised in terms of the core messages around who you are, what you do and the key messages that people take away from meeting and spending time with you.

 

This article examines a number of key ways in which you can manage and maintain your network, by recruiting new people into your network and developing relationships with existing contacts.  Here we will look at a number of ways to build, manage and maintain the people with whom you have mutual “Like, Trust and Respect” – the Guardians of your Reputation.

 

By using a combination of processes, tools and networks, you can build and strengthen your network very rapidly and ensure that the people you need to find and refer are always close at hand.  Updating, refreshing, cleansing and contacting your network should be something you actually schedule into your week and diligently spend time on.  Remember that your network can become the vehicle that carries you throughout your career – like any vehicle, the better you look after it, the more reliably it will serve you.

 

Social networking IS business networking, if it’s done properly. So meeting new people and spending time getting to know them is one critical activity, but it has to be underpinned with on-line networking in various forms, in order to be efficient.  The tools and networks described here are the ones I have tried and tested and I know they work for me – you may have additional and/or different ones and I’d be glad to hear your suggestions and share them with others, who may benefit.

 

Online Social Networks

The following are networking platforms that will help you to find and connect with people who you may be to help and who may be able to help you.  It is important to ensure that you provide a clear description of who you are (Personal Proposition) and what you do (Business Proposition), so that people understand your value and want to connect with you.  It’s also important that you complete as much contact information as you can do (and/or are comfortable doing).  Ecademy, for instance, has a “.vcf” icon in the top right corner of each profile, if it’s enabled, and this allows you to download a virtual business card into your contact management software.

 

Ecademy (www.ecademy.com)

Business Scene (www.business-scene.com)

Xing (www.xing.com)

Soflow (www.soflow.com)

 

In addition, there’s LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com), which works slightly differently and uses the concept of Friend of a Friend, as described in What is ROR.  It can be an amazing resource for finding people once you’ve established a strong network of trusted contacts.

 

One additional benefit with most of these platforms is that they are indexed by Google and further help to raise your profile in the marketplace and make you more “findable”.  They each have their own features, advantages and benefits, which may lend themselves especially well to you business, or may not.

 

Contact Management

As you build your network, it’s critical that you can save some basic information about your contacts, in order that you can stay in touch with them and make connections between them.  Whether you use MS Outlook, or a competitive product, it’s important that you capture your contacts’ details, so you can search and find them easily.  Furthermore, categorising them in a way that is efficient for you makes this much more useful.  This can be further enhanced with a tool like Plaxo (www.plaxo.com), which will find other Plaxo members in your contact manager and automatically update each-other’s details as they change, e.g. new job, new phone number, etc.

 

So, I’ve got the contacts, what now…….?

The last blog in this series was called “Make the effort” and this is probably the most critical aspect.  I know people with over 10,000 contacts in LinkedIn – Wow, you maybe saying!  Nope…….. so what?!  They know a fraction of them and their sowing their message so thinly that very few opportunities will grow from this.  It takes a lot of effort to build a network this size but for what?  You’re just another statistic!  It’s the people close to you that matter, the people who understand who you are and what you do and will recommend you – they’re the ones that matter, because they are your reputation in the marketplace!

 

So Management and Maintenance is about two things, it’s about getting to know your network better, as well as growing it – Recruitment and Development.  It’s also about pruning, cutting out the dead wood, removing people you don’t want to be associated with from your network and ensuring that you only build and maintain trusted relationships with people you do want to be associated with – people with who you share a mutual like, trust and respect.

 

Recently I’ve been extremely busy with various projects, some are long-standing relationships and some are newer referrals.  The important thing here is that every single piece of work I have in the pipeline is a referral, recommendation or repeat business…… no selling, no marketing, no cold calls and no haggling over price and only people who want to do good business – people I like, trust and respect!  What’s more I wouldn’t have time at the moment to make sales calls if I needed to, but the pipeline is still filling up and I don’t have to worry about “what next?”

 

Why?  It’s simple – ROR!  Moreover, I have recently connected various opportunities to other people I know can deliver – a builder/plumber, a trainer, a salesperson, a Country Manager for an international hi-tech company, a removals company, a food company………… just stuff I tripped over, or people asking “who do you know who……?”  So other people who I like, trust and respect are benefiting directly – that’s ROR too and it’s free (apart from the odd cup of coffee or a phone call).

 

The bottom line is that if you build and maintain a strong network, of people who like, trust and respect you, understand you and what you do, then your reputation in the marketplace will bring you and them(!) business through those relationships.