Networking and the art of asking for help

networking event, name badge and coffee, network

Networking is a constant through everyone’s life.

As the old saying goes it’s not what you know but who you know.

When I was a professional tennis played primarily played doubles and constantly needed to find a partner. I didn’t know it then but I was learning how to network. I had to raise sponsorship money to continue to travel and play and this was done through my network. I started my business HC Collective and have never advertised and all my business has come through networking. I want to give you five key points that will help you to network more effectively.

People like giving advice

I love when a young tennis player comes to me for mentorship and asks me to support him or her with advice on their journey. I believe that people are kind and will generally help and give you advice if they can. However you have to ask. With platforms like twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn etc it’s never been easier to connect with people and ask for advice.

Internal Boardroom

I’ve become great friends with Dr Betty Uribe who is the former President of California Bank and is an author of the book Values and a keynote speaker. She introduced me to the concept of the internal boardroom. She said who is on your boardroom? Companies have their boards. They have their chairpersons, honorary secretaries and so on but who are the people that you can go to and ask for advice. Who is on your personal board?

Relationship Value

When it comes to networking I think about the relationship value a lot. I keep a spreadsheet of the people I meet and I rank a relationship value on each. If I was to meet someone briefly at a conference and they give me their card then that person is 1 in relationship value terms. My thought process is how do I move that 1 to a 2 and so on. For me a person who is at a 5 is someone you can call on a Sunday. Look at your network and see if you can start moving those 1’s to 2’s, 2’s to 3’s and so on.

Value Add

We all have value to add to our network and what’s that value you can add. In 2015 I heard about Richard Branson’s tennis event on the island. He brings some of the best tennis players and businesspeople to the island to play in a casual pro am which also raises money for charity. I knew I could add value to the event and picked up the phone to the founder of the event. I told him I would stand on the court all day and hit with the businesspeople so he would never be short a player. I knew I could add value to him and the event. What’s your value add?

Get out there

In the current global environment it’s difficult to get out there and go to events and meet people. However connect with people and get on zoom calls and when things do get back to normal put yourself in those uncomfortable situations. Someone once said to me “You don’t learn how to network by reading it in a book.”

You need to get out there and connect and go and meet people. I used to like going to events alone because it forced me to go and meet people. I always found it funny how people would go to events with someone and stand in the corner and speak to each other. You need to put yourself out there.

James Cluskey and Richard BransonAbout the author

James Cluskey is an Ex-Davis Cup tennis pro, founder of personal development group High Calibre Collective and author of Advantage: Lessons from Sport and Business to Achieve Your Goals published by Panoma Press, priced £12.99

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