Build a Collaborative Trust

The rise of Social Media has provided the illusion that it is possible to sit at your desk and, by using the tentacles of the web, develop and grow a network that can help fill your sales funnel. If you bought into this concept, and I know it’s tempting to think you can make a million dollars sitting in your pajamas, I have to tell you that it’s just not going to happen. Maybe there are a few people who have grown their business having never left the office, but most of us still need real live relationships with real live people to achieve business success.

I am NOT advocating that you fill your calendar with Chamber Mixers & networking events, but rather, develop ‘real’ relationships with a group of collaborative partners whom you trust, whose loyalty you have and return, and most importantly, who you know will make you look good. These may be people you’ve met on Twitter or Facebook, but it is essential that you have your own small army that can serve as:

a) A sounding board.
b) Collaborators on projects.
c) Inspiration.

The above is obviously essential for the lone Entrepreneur, but equally important if you’re a member of a larger organization; outside ideas are the life-breath of creativity and sometimes working closely with the same team members for years makes everyone stale.

How do you select the members of your network?

First: They must be people you admire tremendously. You must leave every conversation thinking: damn ______ is smart, creative, strategic minded, or just plain special.

Second: You must make sure they’re open to being part of your team and are willing to commit to the collaboration. I’m not advocating that you draw up a contract, but you must have a conversation and ask them to participate in what will be a reciprocating, mutually beneficial relationship.

Third: You must be in businesses that are collaborative or that can ‘feed’ each other – either information, ideas or clients.

Forth: You need to meet with your team, regularly, in real life. That doesn’t mean you must get together weekly; my ‘team’ gets together every couple of months. But it’s essential that you do get together with an agenda, and have an established method for helping the members of your group.

I realize that nothing suggested above is groundbreaking, but so many people in the business world waste so much time trying to be everywhere – tweeting, posting and mixing their way into an awful lot of contacts but not a lot of substantive relationships. Take the time to build your own collaborative trust and you’ll understand how much more it brings you than the standard wheel spinning of traditional or social media networking.

Reach Outside of Your Network

I was once privileged to work for a very wise man named Royce Renfroe who constantly repeated “If we always do what we’ve always done we will always get what we always got.” Frankly, as a sales rep. low on the totem pole in his organization the phrase was annoying and probably overused to the point of losing effectiveness. As my business grew and I was promoted to Sales Management, I really understood just how profoundly this simple thought was to growing your sales.

Fast forward many years to last Sunday evening when I was miraculously close to caught up on my work and browsing through LinkedIn, checking out my connections’ networks – something I know I should do more often. When I take the time to do this I often find people I should already have in my network and it gives me a chance to connect. Sometimes I find that 2 of my connections know each other already and I smile at how small the world actually is. Too often I discover a fundamental mistake within a connection’s network: the obvious list of everyone within their company and industry and very few from outside of it.

Part of networking is of course staying in touch with the people you already know, and Social Media is the perfect platform for this. Continually adding to your network is the other part, and without it your business will become stagnate and whither. This is the deal: if you aren’t regularly reaching outside of your industry and outside of your network you are missing out on:

1. The ability to be introduced to new connections through those you already have.
2. The chance to “get to know” new connections on a different level before you try to work with them.
3. The possiblity of landing in a new industry if god forbid you join the millions who are out of work.
4. Loads and loads of work.

The entire point of networking and growing is to step outside of your comfort zone… to find new friends, new contacts, and new opportunities. This is why “networking groups” abound in the “real world.” When you first started your business you probably spent some time at mixers and Chamber events – you should be mimicking those behaviors online. GET INVOLVED in discussions, look out for those you’d like to be “introduced” to and ask for the connection from someone in your network, and keep bringing in new connections. If you use Social Media in this manner you will grow your network AND your business