Now, more than ever, networking is critical to the survival of your business. So. . . how good are you at it? What are you strong at and what can you improve upon?
In order to know whether or not you’re headed in the right direction with your networking strategy, you need to be able to pinpoint your networking strengths and weaknesses and have a clear understanding of where your networking efforts leave room for improvement.
Making these assessments can be difficult, I know. Scrutinizing yourself in front of a mirror and asking others to be completely honest about how they see you can be pretty uncomfortable to say the least-I’ve been there. However, I’m now better and wiser for the experience and you will be too. Acknowledging the areas you need to spend time becoming stronger in is vital to achieving networking success.
Luckily, this process can be made a little bit easier by utilizing the structured self-assessment tool that you will find outlined below. It will help you to identify your strengths and weaknesses but you need to commit to being brutally honest, as well as asking others for their honest perception of you, in order for it to help you accurately focus on specific goals and accountabilities.
For each answer, respond with 1 to 5 (1 = not at all; 5 = all the time).
1. I have written long-term networking goals. ____
2. I block out time in my weekly schedule for regular networking activities. ____
3. I can profile my preferred client as well as a TV profiler. ____
4. I have a strong team of referral partners. ____
5. I live by the “Givers Gain®” philosophy (I give business to others before I expect them to give business to me). ____
6. I have an organized contact management system that I use effectively. ____
7. I know the top ten traits of a master networker. ____
8. I have a very diverse personal network (people from differing professions, ethnicity, age, education, gender, etc.). ____
9. I know who can get me to my target market. ____
10. I keep in contact with people from organizations I used to belong to. ____
11. I make sure that my brother/sister/parent/family member can accurately explain what I do for a living. ____
12. I attend at least two networking functions or activities per week. ____
13. I belong to a Web-based networking group. ____
14. I am someone whom people seek out when they need help. ____
15. I bring personal value to my relationships. ____
16. I typically am the one who puts the wheels in motion in a networking relationship. ____
17. I have a networking accountability partner. ____
18. I am an active volunteer for something meaningful to my life. ____
19. I send thank-you cards regularly. ____
20. I consistently follow up on referrals within twenty-four hours. ____
21. I have found myself networking in the grocery store or elevator. ____
22. I capitalize on my hobbies to meet people. ____
23. I make the focus of my lunchtime meetings, how I can help the other person. ____
24. I am good at making a connection when I meet someone new. ____
25. I am an active member of a referral networking group. ____
26. I am an active member of a chamber of commerce. ____
27. I sponsor at least one event per year for a referral partner. ____
28. I host an event for the people in my network several times a year. ____
29. I am skilled at asking the right questions of a networking contact. ____
30. I have created my message to be about the customer benefits of my product or service rather than its features. ____
31. I can consistently describe my target market without saying “anybody.” ____
32. I make sure that people hear the passion in my voice when I talk about my business. ____
33. I make a good first impression with my business card. ____
34. I provide information that is valuable to my audience whenever I give a presentation. ____
35. I send a newsletter to my business’s clients. ____
36. I regularly put out press releases for my business. ____
37. I have written articles for publication. ____
38. I make getting client testimonials a part of my sales process. ____
39. I have provided my referral partners with success stories about my business. ____
40. I have prepared a written introduction for each time I am presented to a group. ____
41. I am comfortable sharing my accomplishments. ____
42. I make a practice of asking for feedback from clients. ____
43. I start new networking relationships by acting like a host at networking events. ____
44. I have asked my vendors for referrals. ____
45. I provide support to my target market beyond my services. ____
46. I ask for referrals every day. ____
47. I look for referrals for others daily. ____
48. I am comfortable speaking in public. ____
49. I surround myself with others who can help my clients. ____
50. I mentor others in the art, science, and philosophy of networking. ____
51. I have an advisory board for my business. ____
52. I enjoy learning more about how to network effectively. ____
Total Score: ___________
260 – Master Networker
There is no doubt that your networking skills are remarkable. Most likely, you already are in the top one-fourth of the population who truly are separated by six degrees. Your challenge now is to stay there!
234-259 – Outstanding
You are in the 90th percentile. Clearly, you know how to network. You are most likely skilled enough to have you approaching the top group of networkers. Your thirst for learning will have you devouring books on strategies to further improve the return on your investment of effort in networking and with commitment, you’ll be a master networker in no time!
208-233 – Very Good
You are in the 80th percentile. You’re doing many things right. Your effort can be very effective and your relationships strong. Seek out resources to help you focus your plan and hone your skills to improve your efforts even more.
182-207 – Good
You’re in the 70th percentile. The great thing is-you believe in networking! However, there’s still a fair amount for you to learn. Reassess how you view the networking process and focus your energy on devising an effective system in order to gain a high return on your networking investment.
156-181 – Fair
You are in the 60th percentile. On the bright side, you’re probably building some good relationships around you. You most likely have people who care about you and want to help you and your business grow. They can be a great resource to help teach you how to build your networking skills and strategies. However, you could be doing some things that will hurt your business with respect to networking. Make a habit of reading articles and books that will help you focus your efforts and move further into the networking arena, one strategy at a time.
0-155 – Weak
Networking is an acquired skill. You need to focus on developing a basic networking skill set in order to network your business. If you’re ready to connect more closely with people and learn the skills necessary to move toward becoming a master networker, utilize every avenue possible to develop networking skills. Talk to experienced networkers, tap into resources such as books, articles, blogs, and podcasts on business and networking. You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain-the world is waiting to know more about you and your business!
Understanding Your Results
First off, your score is between you and yourself alone. It’s not meant to be shared anywhere outside your own head.
Whatever your score, remember that you’re simply taking your networking temperature, so to speak-not engaging in any value judgments about yourself, one way or the other. Indeed, if you take this self-assessment a few months from now, the score will probably be different-assuming you make a dedicated effort to pursue continuous learning and develop your networking skills and strategies!
Editor’s note: The above article is based on material from the recently released bestselling book The 29% Solution: 52 Weekly Networking Success Strategies by Dr. Ivan Misner and Michelle R. Donovan.
About the Author:
Called the father of modern networking by CNN, Dr. Ivan Misner is a New York Times bestselling author. He is the Founder and Chairman of BNI (www.bni.com), the world’s largest business networking organization. His latest #1 bestseller, The 29% Solution, can be viewed at www.29PercentSolution.com. Dr. Misner is also the Sr. Partner for the Referral Institute, an international referral training company (www.referralinstitute.com). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .