Have you ever heard the phrase “your network is your net worth”?
It’s also the name of a famous non-fiction book published by Porter Gale, which talks about the value of networking and how it can propel your professional as well as your personal life forwards.
“Networking doesn’t have to be that frenzied old-school game of calendars packed with stuffy power lunches and sterile evenings at community business gatherings. We’ve entered a new era, one in which shifting cultural values and the explosion of digital technology enable us to network in vastly more efficient, more focused, and more enjoyable ways.” - Porter Gale
We highly recommend reading the book, but whilst we’ve got your attention - we wanted to unpack the importance of quality in your networking, not just quantity.
Many of us use LinkedIn; in fact, as of July 2023, there are 930 million plus users on the platform. We are incredibly lucky to live in a digital age where networking has become easier than ever before. Within seconds we can look up and connect with someone inspirational, and who knows - you may even get a message back from them. But, the art of networking isn’t the number of connections you have nor the number of replies you get online, it’s in fact what you’re getting out of those networks and relationships.
The quantity vs quality argument
In an ideal world, we’ll have both - but to achieve that takes a pretty long time and also a lot of luck. There are always going to be arguments that quantity will eventually provide quality, and to a degree, that could be seen as correct. If you send out enough connections on LinkedIn, have enough drinks with people at conferences and book yourself back-to-back with catch-up calls, something is bound to come of it, right? Just like anything in life, networking is a numbers game.
But, there’s absolutely a better way than filling your time with pointless conversations and messages praying that something is going to stick.
Your networking must have a strategy
The first question you need to ask yourself is why you’re networking. Understanding the why behind your networking will enable you to build a strategy that is centred around quality connections, as well as long-term quantity.
Let’s say you work within Business Development selling a product, and your core target market is CEOs within mid-sized tech companies - you could simply sit on LinkedIn or go to an event hoping that you’ll build this network; and, you probably would over time. But, you have to think cleverly about how you can achieve the goal without just thinking about quantity.
The first logical step would be introductions. Who in this target market can you access the quickest? On LinkedIn, who do you have mutually who could introduce you? That would be your first way of permeating this market and having a strategy behind it.
Then, think about cold outreach - who has contact information readily available? Utilise that and treat that as the second step in your Business Development plan.
And finally, the individuals that are the hardest to reach - don’t focus on them unless you aren’t seeing results from the first two steps.
That way, you’re investing in quality connections first (which will yield you the quickest and best results) rather than quantity without any thought process behind it.
Finally, networking takes time
Building a high-quality network can take years. If you’re in the early stages of networking, don’t expect to have great results straight away. Ultimately, you’re dealing with people - and people aren’t going to trust you (or like you) straight away. Networking in a way, is a bit of a game.
You have to ensure that you have a strategy behind it but also that you have the likeability and patience to be in it for the long haul. What can you give someone in return? Are your interactions positive? Are you adding value or simply having a conversation for the sake of it?
These are all important questions to ask yourself if you find yourself getting frustrated with not getting the results immediately. True networking takes time - remember that!