The Difference between Quality Networking and Quantity Networking
 
 

The Difference Between Quality Networking and Quantity Networking

Once upon a time, you used to search for topics on the Internet by using a key search term. Though this is still the case, the manner in which your favorite search engine connects you to the ideal results has changed.

You used to get a list of search results based on the number of keywords in the article or the blog post. But what the search engines began to realize is that all of those keywords may have matched up well to the search, and yet they didn't offer the person doing the searching any sort of quality results or information.

Things then changed. Today, search engines will rank articles based on the quality of the articles. Networking is much the same way.

However, there are cases on both sides as to whether you should focus on quality or quantity when you're trying to increase your business connections.

The Case for Quality

The current thought in networking is that you should find quality connections. This means you should find people who are directly related to what you are trying to achieve. Now, how you define quality will depend on the goals you have set for yourself in this process.

  • Why do you want to connect with this person/organization?

  • What are your long-term thoughts on this connection?

  • How will you benefit each other?

When you stop to think about these various ideas, you will begin to see there are certain people who are ideal connections, and certain others who are not going to serve your goals.

As you begin to look for quality connections, you will notice you have a narrower field in which to look. You have specific tastes, which means you don't look at just anyone's profile, and you don't talk to just anyone.

You also don't have a lot of people in your social media accounts, and you might not have a lot of connections in your LinkedIn account, as others who may focus on quantity.

If this is the strategy you use, you will notice:

  • You can interact on a deeper level – When you don't have as many people to talk to and to build relationships with, you can talk to them at a deeper level. This doesn't mean you need to build personal relationships, but you will have time to talk about things that are outside of business. As a result, this often makes the connections stronger and longer lasting, even outside of the business world.

  • The time you spend generates results – Since you have qualified the people you are connecting with in your network, you already know they want to be a part of what you have to offer. Though not everyone will want to buy whatever you're selling, you will notice your networking efforts do lead to results, not just more numbers of connections (although that can also happen).

  • You have a higher success rate – You may notice you do have measurable results from your network. Though the numbers will certainly vary depending on the industry and the people in your network, most find that they have a higher ROI (Return on Investment) than they anticipated. For the work they put in, they will more often than not make some sort of financial gain.

  • You have a solid following/network – If you take your time and you build a strong network, you will also build a network that will stick around. These aren't people who are just there for the moment. They are going to be a part of your connections for a longer period of time, which can add up to more sales, revenue, stability, etc.

Quality networking is considered to be the standard in today's business world, but that doesn't mean it's the only way – or even the best way in all industries. Certainly, there is a case for building up a networking of connections that is based on the number of people you can have in your network.

The Case for Quantity

Since you've probably already started to understand why quantity may not serve your networking goals as well as you though, you probably don't think there are any arguments for quantity.

But that's not entirely true.

Having a larger network does have its unique benefits, and it is certainly a way to gain more exposure and more necessary exposure in some industries.

  • Quantity helps sales – When you want to increase your overall sales results, you need to have more clients or more clients who are willing to buy more. When you have a larger pool of clients, it makes sense that this might lead to more results. In addition, the more people you have that are current or even prospective clients, the more people will be around when others are not able to make purchases.

  • Quantity drives exposure – It's true, the more people you know, the more people they know will find out about you. The exposure you can get is a good thing, but it also means you need to be ready to maintain a professional rapport with everyone, even if you didn't connect with them initially.

  • Quantity encourages more connections – In many cases, the more connections you have, the more others will want to connect with you. And even if you don't encourage these connections, they can still happen.

  • Quantity encourages more referrals – Since you have more connections, this can increase the possibility of people referring you to others. Even though you may not have qualified those leads, you will have a larger opportunity to get exposure to people you may not have met otherwise.

Though it's true that quantity doesn't mean you have connections that are valuable, it does allow you to be more exposed in your industry.

At the same time, it can be worthwhile to think about who you really want in your network.

A Compromise?

With all of this in mind, perhaps there is a happy middle ground that can be enjoyed by the professional networker.

  • Know who you want to reach – It can't be said enough that you need to know who your target networking audience is. Who do you want to connect to? What do they do? What will they do for you? What can you do for them?

  • Only connect with those you will be able to support – To make sure you're not connecting too many people in your network, think about who you can support in your everyday activities. If you can't reach out to people on a regular basis, or you're not willing to, you might want to rethink how many people are in your network.

  • Focus on how you can help a person or how they can help you – Whenever you have an opportunity to connect with someone, evaluate who they are and whether they are valuable in your work or your goals. You can easily determine and measure this by reading their profile.

  • Weed out 'bad' connections – Now and again, it's a good idea to see if you have connections you can drop from your social media or other lists. This will help you spend more time on the people that really matter.

  • Treat your connections well – When you do have a strong network, you need to make sure you're treating them well. Communicate with them, help out, and keep them in the loop about what you're doing.

The more you can focus on the overall strategy, instead of just looking at numbers or what people can do for you, the more successful you will be in networking. This is a process of establishing connections, and connections take time – just as they do in your personal relationships.

Summary

For many, networking can become a question of whether it's better to focus on quality or quantity when looking for connections. Though there are arguments for both sides, there are also ways to find a compromise. You can have a lot of connections, and you can treat them well, and you can appreciate their value.
Networking for New Opportunities

One of the biggest reasons people start looking into networking is to find new opportunities. But the best plan to use networking to your advantage in these situations is to start BEFORE you actually need the help.

By developing a network that isn't completely based on you getting something from someone else, the contacts you have will not feel as though it's a one-sided relationship when you have to reach out for help.

Just as you might ignore spam messages from people you don't know, ideally, you will cultivate and build your network before you start asking for support or an 'in' at a company.

However, this isn't always possible, depending on your situation.

It is good to know that you can easily use a network to find new ways to work, to connect, and to run a business. All you need to do is to know how to prepare yourself, how to reach out, and how to avoid the common mistakes.

Preparing to Change Your Career/Direction

Whether you know you're going to change your career or not, you can start preparing for the next step in your career today.

  • Know your direction – When you first build your network, it can help to focus on finding connections who are already related to the things you do, and to the direction you might want to take in the future. Though this can certainly change, you will want to make sure you are targeting a certain direction, as that will yield more quality results and it can help you see better outcomes in terms of opportunities.

  • Know your talents – You will want to take an inventory of the things you do and the things you can do well. This will help you begin to see what you might be able to offer within your network. Though you might not think you are an expert in anything, it's time to find where your expertise truly is – even if you don't believe in it. Networking is partially about selling yourself, so you need to be clear about what you have to offer that no one else does.

  • Build a network of friends and family – The network you build can start with your friends and family, of course. They already know you and they can reach out to professional contacts for you, as a beginning strategy. Though you might have some new opportunities from people you know, you don't want to rely on these closer relationships. First, they are limited, and second, you don't want to create any strain on the relationships you have.

  • Add contacts in your industry – Once you have a basic network, it can help to start looking at other contacts in your industry. This might be company executives, other professionals with your job title, consultants, etc. Find out who the popular people are in your industry and make sure you get connected to them in some way. It might be as simple as following them on Twitter or Facebook, or reaching out to them personally for a connection.

  • Start signing up for groups and forums – You also want to remember that there are tools on many online resource sites that require your input to help build your network. On LinkedIn, for example, you can sign up for industry-related groups, and there you will be able to meet with high quality connections. Or you might want to 'Like' as many pages as are related to your industry when you're on Facebook. Once you have these connections in place, then you will want to make sure you interact with the people, allowing a natural relationship to evolve.

The more you can reach out to others who already know what you do or understand what you do, the more effective this networking strategy can be. Think about where other professionals in your industry might be, and then make sure you are there too. This will ensure you are building the most high quality connections, with minimal effort.

At the same time, it might be a good idea to perform online searches and to look at industry papers for more connection opportunities. The more you can connect, the better.

How to Approach Someone

Now, just connecting to someone on a social media site is easy, but how do you approach them to connect on a more professional level? And how do you reach out to people who are not on social media, i.e. executives, managers, thought leaders, etc.?

Just as in sales, you need to find a way to connect with these people so that you can cultivate a relationship. Once you have a relationship, it's easier to ask them for help or guidance when you want to change a career – or you're looking for a new opportunity.

Here are some things you can do in order to approach someone effectively:

  • Find out how they like to be contacted – Most of the time, you can find a person's contact information online, and you should follow that information, unless they provide other instructions. For example, on LinkedIn, the contact advice might be to go to their website, so you will want to do that. When in doubt, do your research to see how someone prefers to be contacted, as that will boost your chances of getting a response.

  • Contact them directly – While it might seem easier to just mail a big organization and hope the email gets to the person you want to contact, this is not always what happens. Instead, try to find the direct contact information for the professional. Not only does this show you are dedicated to talking to them, but it also has a greater opportunity of being read by the person.

  • Introduce yourself – Start by introducing who you are and what you have to offer. This can be a quick summary of your job experience, some unique accomplishments, etc. Find a way to show who you are and what makes you someone they might want to add to their network.

  • Be clear about why you want to connect – If you have a clear intention for the networking relationship, then clearly state this. This will give the person the information they need in order to make a decision one way or the other about a professional relationship with you.

  • Follow up from time to time – When you have gotten into someone's contact list, make sure to follow up on occasion to let them know you are thinking of them and that you value the connection.

  • Be patient – Though you might want to build your network overnight, the truth is that most people have other things that are a priority. Your email or phone call may go unanswered for a little while, and waiting for a response is the best way to give them the space they need.

  • Connect with people who inspire you, and tell them so – Flattery does work, so if you have a story about the person with whom you want to connect, make sure to include this in the contact email or phone call you place. This will help to create a more personal relationship right from the start, and it will set you apart. Of course, it's best not to make this story up, just to get attention.


Things to Avoid When Reaching Out

Speaking of things you should not do, there is a long list of items you will want to avoid when you're trying to build a high quality network:

  • Don't contact someone everyday – Though you might want to showcase your persistence, it can also come across as a lack of awareness. Instead, try to contact someone from time to time, and see how they respond. If they take a few days to respond, then you might want to put even more space between your messages.

  • Be honest – Whenever you communicate with the other person, be honest about what you are doing and what you might expect from them. This allows the other person to speak up and tell you when they need something different, or they need to tell you that they can't help you.

  • Listen to the person – Always, always listen to the person who is your connection. It's not just about what you need. You might be able to help them as well.

  • Follow up when asked – Make sure you follow up as you have agreed to follow up with the person. If you don't follow through on your promises, they may not be encouraged to follow up with you.

  • Don't send a general message to potential connections – Though it might be easier to create a form letter that will help you get your networking message out to as many people as possible, it is also not the best way to show you want to build a relationship. Instead, craft a unique letter for every person. It's time-consuming, and worth the effort.

Summary

When you're looking for a new career or new opportunities, you will want to make sure you're clear about what you want, reaching out to people who can help, and then maintaining a professional relationship that benefits everyone.

 
 
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