The Most Important of Networking Skills
Building a position of respect and trust in a group of people that is expanding will open new doors like never before, and is the most important of networking skills.
Once you are seen as trusted, and respected, well-connected people will advocate for you. It’s like old adage – it’s not what you know but who you know. In a world of digital connectivity, that statement rings true more than ever.
Networking firstly comes down to finding an environment that encourages advocacy.
What advocacy means for you
Imagine having a group of employees and business owners across a range of industries & fields, advocating for you as a person? Even if you aren’t a business owner, you can see the benefits that would come with this.
- As a business owner – imagine having a large number of people wanting to know about your product or service – so they can proactively seek the right contacts for you?
- With enough people doing this, you would have so much business you would never spend a cent on advertising ever again.
So being advocated for is one of the most essential networking skills
But why would others advocate for you first?
- They would do this – because you have advocated for them already!
- It’s not a matter of waiting for advocacy, it’s a matter of being part of a culture that encourages it. You must give first, to receive.
- When you take the time to get to know others, it’s easy to advocate for them and sets them apart from their competition. See how to advocate for others below.
- Over time, you build trust with others in your networking event by consistently advocating and contributing. They do the same, and the group grows along with referrals passed.
How to advocate for others?
Even if you haven’t personally experienced the services of another person in your network, you can still advocate for them. This is one of the most important networking skills to develop.
Think about it this way: have you ever recommended someone for a job interview? You know the person to be highly reliable and they consistently do what they say they will do. As a result, you have no problem recommending them.
- You have observed that the person has a good attitude and is focused on solutions, not problems.
- From your experience attending networking events with them, you know they are a team player.
Those two factors are critical when it comes to hiring someone. So you know they would be a good hire!
In reality, you have little idea about this person’s technical ability when it comes to the job itself. BUT you know about their attitude, people skills, and desire to contribute to the goals of an organization. Employers know you are not vouching for their technical skills – they know you are vouching for them as a person for qualities that are hard to teach.
This is the same process when you advocate for someone in your network that you have come to know well. Even without experiencing their offering, you can hear about their offering from the rest of the group and assess their reliability. As you get to know them and observe their behavior, you can decide whether to introduce them into your network of contacts.
However, advocating for someone does not mean you are guaranteeing the quality of their products and services. Whoever you advocate for needs to establish their own client satisfaction. You are just helping people find a shortlist of candidates that are worth evaluation.
In the end, once you find good people that you are happy to introduce to others, you become a connector and are known as someone with a strong network who can find the right person for the job.
Advocacy is a networking skill that goes beyond ‘referring’
There are plenty of networking environments out there which provide referrals.
Referrals normally look like this:
- You have a contact who provides service X
- You recommend that person call person X and mention your name
While this is better than calling person X and having no mutual contacts, it is by no means a powerful tool.
What IS powerful is advocacy. Advocacy looks like this:
- You call person X and suggest they consider service X – you think it would be relevant to them and their business for X reason (only suggest it if you truly believe the service is relevant). Explain why you trust your contact and believe they have a good attitude, are a good team player, and provide work for others.
- When your contact calls up person X to explain their services. Person X is much more happy to take the call and meet with your contact.
- You follow up and see if there is anything you can do to assist the relationship moving forward.
That sounds GREAT for your contact, right? Now imagine 30-50 people actively doing that for you. Your main problem would be having TOO MANY meetings to attend to. But see how easily you can give and receive work when you are part of a culture that encourages advocacy?
If you consistently put in the effort and attend the same networking event, while advocating for others – it follows that you will get more and more people advocating for you, and eventually what it is that you desire.
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