For many, networking is considered a challenge or even a burden that involves attending a series of events at which people are trying to sell you something. If you change that mindset and look at networking from the viewpoint of staying active in communities, learning from others and sharing valuable and engaging content, you will expand your network and – hopefully – become a thought leader for those in the network.
As we mentioned in a previous post, staying active in communities is an important way for a small- or medium-sized value-added resellers (VAR) to compete against bigger players, such as direct VARs (DVAR). When you make a committed effort to attend industry events, business events or networking events, you are getting your name out in the community and, hopefully, developing relationships with others in your field or industry. Leverage networking as a way to compete against DVARs.
And it doesn’t have to be an everyday activity. Physical networking can be something you and your team do four or five times a month. In the tech world, look for local tech councils or check in with your economic development council or small business development center to find the best events for inclusion on your calendar. Also, when you’re seeking out local rotaries, area business associations and chambers of commerce, make sure you aren’t always in sales mode.
You already are on top of the latest news in your industry and in your area. One way to continue to engage with others after an event is to share information with them about their industry or about a topic you discussed with them at that event. It’s a combination of having the “feet on the street” at industry and other events and following up with targeted information – not sales pitches – with the people you meet that will help you create and maintain relationships. This will help you gain respect, legitimacy, and authority in your field. And, since you have face time with the folks with whom you are sharing information, you already have a leg up on DVARs, who may not be able to focus on smaller events and groups.
Don’t shy away from sharing information – you don’t have to start a newsletter or send lengthy emails to share valuable content with your peers, colleagues, customers and potential customers. You can utilize email, Twitter or LinkedIn to share links to stories of interest, follow up on conversations you’ve had, etc. In an Inc. blog, another suggestion was to answer questions or make thoughtful comments to your colleagues on LinkedIn. “By sharing your expertise in a way that benefits others, you not only brand yourself as an expert – but also as someone who’s willing to help and build other people up,” the author shared.
The willingness to help and build others up is critical to your networking activities – it is, after all, about the give and take of information, knowledge and referrals. If you commit yourself to the right groups, a handful of hours with the right people and groups, and the willingness to put the sharing of knowledge before the desire to make a sale, networking will help you compete against DVARs and stand out as a leader in your community.