The Importance of Effective Networking Strategies
You've probably heard it a thousand times: networking is crucial. But have you ever taken a minute to ask yourself why? Simply put, if you’re not constantly networking, you're limiting your reach, your opportunities, and your potential growth.
People who fail to “keep in touch” often find themselves feeling like they’re constantly running on a hamster wheel especially if they’re in business development or sales. Inevitably every potential deal is a “must-close” situation because they don’t have enough potential deals or opportunities in their sales pipeline. Other professionals that fail to emphasize networking activities report feeling isolated or like they’re not plugged into their industry. And then there are those folks that tell the heartbreaking stories of the opportunities that slipped through their fingers, simply because they didn't have the right connections.
On the other hand, imagine having a network of contacts who trust you, value your insights, and look forward to your calls and emails. How many job opportunities, deals, or partnerships could you discover or even create by constantly popping up on their screens and into their lives?
That's the power of effective networking. It's not just about creating a single opportunity; it's about creating a pipeline of personal and professional opportunities. Because the more connected you are, the better chance great opportunities will show up in your inbox, or voicemail (I know… so 2000’s right ) or text strings versus someone else.
The Thin Line Between Effective Networking and Being a Nuisance
We've all been there. The dread of picking up the phone, the anxiety of sending that email, the fear of being perceived as a nuisance. Yet, in the world of business development, nurturing contacts is a necessary part of the job.
But where does nurturing end and annoying begin? That’s the $64,000 question, right? It's a delicate balance. On one hand, you need to reach out, follow up, and keep the conversation going. On the other hand, you don't want to be that person—the one who's always pestering, always pushing. The one who ends up in the spam folder or on the blocked callers' list.
And luckily for you, that thin line begins and ends with one word: Respect.
Successful networkers respect their contacts' time, their needs, and their boundaries. Sure great networkers, especially those in sales positions, are persistent. But more importantly, they’re patient. Because successful networkers understand that their prospects are people, not just potential opportunities. So they spend an inordinate amount of time listening to their needs, understanding their challenges, and offering solutions designed to help — even if the solution is crafted by someone else.
Unfortunately, too many people, especially salespeople, lack any basic respect for the contacts in their address books and CRMs. Instead, they bombard their contacts with a barrage of worthless calls and emails. I swear I throw up in my mouth a little bit every time I receive an email that says something about “bubbling this back up to the top of your inbox,” “checking in” or “I’d love to tell you more."
There is no value for me in those messages. But then, the salesperson that sends those emails hasn’t figured out the secret to effective networking.
It’s a lot like gardening. You didn’t know I had a green thumb, did you? Actually, I don’t but stick with me because it’s a pretty good metaphor or analogy... I’m not sure which since I never was very good at grammar.
When my son and I tried to plant a garden during the pandemic (for some unexplained reason he wanted to try his hand at farming) we didn’t just throw seeds everywhere and hope for the best. Instead, we carefully planted them according to the directions on the package, watered them regularly, and ensured they received just the right amount of sunlight.
Similarly, effective networking involves carefully selecting potential contacts, regularly engaging with them in helpful ways, and giving them the right amount of attention—not too much lest it feels overwhelming, but enough to keep the relationship growing. It’s about respecting what the person on the other end of the communication needs or wants and then giving it to them. Simply put: Every message must reward them for their precious time.
Done correctly, your efforts will produce a wide network of meaningful connections, with whom you engage in thoughtful or helpful conversations that eventually convert into customers, clients, referrals, or cool opportunities. Done incorrectly and you quickly become an annoying nuisance.
Prospects Welcome Genuine Connections
People can tell when you're authentic. If they sense that you don’t truly care about their needs, notice you talk more than you listen or only seem to offer value when it’s clear you’re expecting something in return, you’ll fail at effective networking.
Sure it’s a bit harder, but take the time AND invest in the technology to help you build genuine connections. Then, when you communicate, be yourself— warts and all. Remember, it’s ok to go first.
What do I mean by that? I mean, if you want someone to open up to you, begin by sharing a bit of yourself with them. Give yourself permission to be human. Effective networking is not unlike making a new friend—you connect over shared interests, passions, and challenges. That’s how you build a relationship in your personal life AND in your business life.
Unfortunately, especially if you’re a male, we’re taught to turn off our natural human desire for connectivity and replace it with rational analytical-based thinking while maintaining a professional distance from others.
Don’t do that. Nobody wants to hear from that person. Instead, lead with vulnerability and openness. There is a reason Spider-Man, not Superman or Batman, is Marvel’s most popular character.
Where Superman and Batman were “impressive but inaccessible heroes,” Peter Parker (Spider-Man) was just a nerdy, funny, flawed, and relatable high school kid who couldn’t get up the courage to ask out the girl next door. To quote a Time Magazine article, “Spider-Man reminds audiences of just how vulnerable heroes can be…. [Spider-Man] became the original everyman."
Trust me, it’s so much easier and rewarding to drop the act and just be a regular, flawed human like everyone else. And your contacts will welcome the refreshing change from all those Supermen and Wonderwomen out there acting like they’re all that and a bowl of jelly.
The Power of Reciprocity as an Effective Networking Strategy
But the easiest way to avoid the nuisance label is to remember that networking is a two-way street. It's not just about what you can get, but also, and I’d argue more importantly, what you can give.
People love help. Everyone has issues they’re dealing with — personal and professional — and when you position yourself as a person, maybe THE ONLY person, that consistently provides that help, you become invaluable.
You become the email, voicemail, or social message they pay attention to regardless of what else is happening in their life at that moment. So be there for your contacts. Offer help when they need it, share useful information, and become a resource. Be generous to a fault.
The Art of Non-Nuisance Networking
Remember, networking is not about selling; it's about building relationships. It's about connecting with people on a personal level, understanding their needs, and providing value. It's about being genuine, being respectful, being you. Commit to becoming that person and you’ll never find yourself in the spam box or do-not-call list of anyone.
Additional Networking Tips & Tricks You May Find Valuable
Speaking of staying in touch, if you're a first-time reader and liked this piece, why not consider subscribing so we can stay in touch? Of course, you can break up at any time if you feel like I'm becoming a nuisance . Till next time.
This post was originally published on Painless Prospecting, the weekly sales and marketing blog created by the fine folks at Converse Digital. If you want to learn how to create, engage in, and convert conversations into new clients and customers, give them a call.