You’ve worked your socks off to progress in your career, and you’ve got a great network of contacts, whom you meet on a regular basis. Then a pandemic hits and suddenly the phones fall silent, the only emails you get are about meetings and transactions, and no-one, but no-one is meeting face to face.
With recent announcements about the vaccine, there is definitely light at the end of the long tunnel we’ve all found ourselves in. But as for a return to normal, we’re not sure that’s going to happen any time soon, or even whether normal will ever be the same again.
Whatever happens, it’s likely to be some time before the face to face engagements that drive so much business can happen again. But knowing how to manage your network in the meantime is full of questions. How do you keep your network engaged and ready for an upturn in business if you can’t see them? How often should you be in touch with your contacts? And how do you balance your efforts to connect with new people while keeping in touch with those you’ve already got a relationship with?
It’s a subject we’ve been talking about a lot and below we share some actions for you to consider.
Plan your communications
To maintain your professional relationships, you have to keep some mind share with your contacts. The brutal fact is that if you don’t, they will forget about you.
We all have a wide range of communication tools at our disposal – email, text, phone, Zoom, videos, even letters – the list goes on. Think about how you can use these to nurture your relationships, and mix up the tools you use to add interest to your communications.
It’s not just the tools we use that we need to consider, but the content. We believe the key is to make the communications personal and show that you are interested in your contacts and their lives. Perhaps something you’ve done has triggered you to think about someone – that’s a good time to get in touch. Keep abreast of what’s happening in their industry and company so that you can ask relevant questions or send useful information. And be sensitive in your approach – now is not the time for a hard sell.
Use social media to your advantage
LinkedIn may well be the closest thing we have to the Underwriting Floor. There’s no doubt that social media is one of the tools in your armoury. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that because you are connected with someone, you are communicating with them. Engagement is king, building rapport through comments, exchanges and sharing of content. You can also use social media as a catalyst for other communications. For example, if you see someone in your network has a new job, drop them a personal handwritten note to congratulate them rather than immediately clicking the ‘congrats’ response on a post. Your personal approach will remain with them long after the dozens who simply clicked and moved on.
Look for ways to help
Good communication is a two-way street. It’s not just about you sending material out, but about listening to your contacts. If someone has lost their job, think about whether you can put them in touch with anyone who might help. When you hear about someone facing a similar challenge to one you have overcome, offer to share your insights and experiences. If people ask for advice, be ready to give it.
Be authentic and selfless in your approach, expecting nothing in return, and you will find you are remembered.
Do an occasional audit
A quick scroll down your phone contacts or a look at your social media connections will confirm that we all build up huge business networks. Trying to effectively stay in touch with them all is an impossible task. So some prioritisation is a good idea, making sure you focus your efforts on the people who are most important to you.
Every so often, take a look at your contact list and ask yourself if it’s up to date, are you missing some vital contacts? People may come and go, and your optimum network is likely to be a mix of long-established contacts and new prospects.
Keeping up the discipline of regular, meaningful connections in the current climate can feel like an uphill struggle. But we firmly believe that those who make the effort to do so will benefit further down the line.
Do you have any tips about maximising your network whilst we can’t meet?