IS IT TIME FOR A NETWORKING AUDIT?
With Robyn Henderson
Is your net working for you or is it time to review your network?
The busier we get the less time we seem to have to maintain our networks. As we dash from one meeting to another, one networking event to a family dinner, one rushed haircut to another children’s party – we sometimes feel that we are juggling way too many things. And if we think that, we are probably right!
It’s time for a networking audit! Somewhere in that busy diary, blackberry or schedule – we need to allocate at least 2 free hours for an appointment with ourselves. Done? Turn off the phone, the computer, close the door, block out any possible distractions – you are about to do a networking audit – without distraction.
A networking audit is a bit like looking at old photo albums – you have no clue who many of the people in the photographs are. Your networks are often filled with people who are no longer relevant in your life – you can’t remember who they are and vice versa.
Our currency today is information and out of date information or contacts are worthless and time wasters in our busy life. Master networkers are those who can access the most relevant and accurate information in the shortest time.
Here is a 5 step audit action plan that may assist you in this very important task:
- Identify your short and long term plans – how many widgets do you want to sell this month, first quarter, this year? How many widgets do I want to sell within 2 years? Whether you are selling hours of your time or specific products – an idea of how many and by when must be established. No plan usually means no results.
- List the names of people who are key players in your networks now. This may include spheres of influence, clients, lapsed clients, peers, competitors, friends, social connections, school friends. Most people have stacks more people in their networks, than they can physically manage – so consider creating a number 1 and number 2 list. This doesn’t mean that the number 2 lists are any less important to you -just not people you will necessarily contact in the next 6 months. Just that one thought can often take away a huge amount of pressure – and will assist to prioritize your networking time for the next quarter.
- Establish how many people you have in your databases – and how out of date this information may be. Email addresses are probably the item that people change the frequently these days – and complete postal addresses are usually missing from people’s contact details these days. You want your databases/contact lists to be as “clean” and current as possible. Look at your mobile phone directory, how clean is this list? Do you have a copy of these contacts saved to your phone as well as your computer? If not, why not?
- Make contact with your databases - It may be worth planning the exercise of emailing your database with a blind copy update message and see how many bounce backs you have. Although time consuming, auditing is a bit like gardening - , pruning your networks to a manageable (for you) size, pulling out the weeds – the contacts whose names you don’t even recognize plus reconnecting with those connections that may need a little care and attention – a little like watering a bed of flowers. You may have to plan a number of these 2 hour auditing sessions to really get your garden blooming – but the investment of time is worth it!
Planning a hard copy mail out – for the next quarter is also a quick way of updating your list. Make sure you send something that follows the 90/10 rule – 90% of what you send is of value and interest to the receiver and only 10% is about you promoting you.
- Who would you like to include in your networks? Are there some peers, competitors, industry experts etc, whom you would like to add to your list? Can you make a list of these people? It’s surprising how quickly those people may pop up in your networks, once they are identified. Alternately, you may have people in your networks now who already know people on this list – remember the six degrees of separation is now only three!
Just like a maintaining a healthy garden, sometimes you have to thrown things away. This doesn’t mean that you don’t value your old contacts, it just means sometimes that you have to put them in a different file or maybe a file labeled 12 months ahead – and if you have not contacted them within 12 months – chances are you won’t contact them in the next 12 months.
Before you know it, your two hour time slot has gone – it is your call whether you extend this one, while you are on a roll or plan another auditing session ASAP.
In this short time, you have established where you want to go – and with that focus you can create networks of people who can support you in your quest. Auditing doesn’t mean that you don’t care about your connections; it purely means for the next 6-12 months, you actually identify with whom you want to maintain connections. And then, it’s up to you to plan what those connections will look like – spending a day on the phone have “tele-coffees” (10 minute chats over coffee) is a great way of catching up without leaving your office.
Your time is your most valuable asset and your networking audit will help you spend your asset wisely.