Would you like to know one of the best yardsticks with which to measure the success of your personal brand? Here it is: the quantity and the quality of your contacts. Since the success of our personal brand and by extension of our career always relies on others – it will be others who will eventually decide whether they buy your product or service, hire you, give the go-ahead to your longed-for promotion, or invest in your project – there can be little doubt that an integral part of the consolidation and development of your brand can be no other than an active, determined, strategic and practical approach to cultivating your existing contacts and acquiring new ones as efficiently and enjoyably as possible. And that’s what networking is all about.

The philosophy of networking

People often wonder how to excel at networking and cause the best impression of themselves in order to obtain all those links in the chain needed and at the same time avoiding as many degrees of separation as possible for wonderful personal and professional opportunities to present themselves. Whatever the nature of the networking event you may be considering attending, the right philosophy and cornerstone of networking remains unchanged and unchallenged (and often in stark contradiction with the nagging voice of our egos): think about how can you be of help to others first and how you can forge a relationship that will be ultimately beneficial for both parties.

If you are skeptical about the true ROI of this approach or your dark side is tempting you to dismiss it in favor of a more aggressive ‘me first’ stance, I’d ask you to listen the words of someone who has made a career out of showing others how to communicate, network and sell better. I am referring to British business communications expert and bestselling author of ‘The Jelly Effect’ Andy Bounds, a man endorsed on this subject by none other than the founder of Business Network International and father of the modern networking movement Ivan Misner.

Networking is all about helping other people, not trampling over them,” Andy quite rightly points out. “With any networking conversation, always think: ‘How can I help this person? , not ‘Is this person any use to me’?… Research shows that helping others is the most likely way to generate business for yourself. Speaking about their business first” – and we might add at this point, their careers and their brands – “is a good start to achieving this.”

Personal branders must have done their homework by the time they show up at networking events. For starters, it is when you are convinced that you have something of value to offer to others that you gain the confidence and the peace of mind to network knowing that you deserve to be heard and that you are not pushing a cold sale. It is of course also fundamental to know how to conduct oneself at networking events, with good manners and a friendly approach being paramount. But, once more, if you are on the prowl just seeking to gain people’s attention to metaphorically squeeze them like lemons, I’ll bet you that sooner rather than later you will find yourself given the cold shoulder, ignored, and most likely in the company of those who also perceive you as a resource to exploit and not a potential partner for mutual benefit. In networking as indeed in life, like seems to attract like.

Upon this solid foundation, serious personal branders are well advised to improve and refine their networking skills as an integral and ongoing part of their branding development and on of the top ‘to do’ list commitments. In a nutshell, networking success hinges on attending the right events, speaking to the right people in the right way, and above all bearing always in mind that the event itself is not the goal but a means to an end: to establish a post-event relationship with interested parties you have had the chance to contact and have given you the go-ahead to a further meeting or communication of some kind.

One last note is that – when conducted properly – networking is almost always productive fun: meeting new people, learning about their businesses and careers, finding common interests, sharing hopes and goals and seeking to establish mutually benefiting relationships has all the ingredients to make for an exciting experience. Many wonderful friendships and even relationships have been forged that way. Let us therefore not allow our egos or anybody else’s spoil the fun and let’s network our way to success.

Author:

Oscar Del Santo is a lecturer, consultant, key speaker, blogger and populariser of online reputation and inbound marketing in Spain. He has been extensively featured in the Spanish and Latin American media and is included in the ‘Top Social Media Influencers’ and ‘Best Marketing Tweeters in Spanish’ lists @OscarDS. He is the author of ‘Reputacion Online para [email protected]’ and the co-author of ‘Marketing de Atraccion 2.0’.