Whether you love it or hate it, the size and diversity of your professional network has a significant impact on your success. Research shows that success factors ranging from your access to key opportunities to your creative thinking abilities are affected by who you know.
Most professionals agree that networking is critical yet, according to LinkedIn, 49% don’t network as often as they want to because they don’t have time. Leveraging a virtual assistant solves this issue because they tackle all of the tedious research and task management responsibilities so that you can focus on building authentic relationships.
Here are 5 ways a virtual assistant can help you foster a stronger professional network.
1) Mine Your Existing Network for Opportunities
Often, when people decide to focus on building their network they focus solely on meeting new people. Overlooking your existing network is a huge lost opportunity. Your former colleagues, bosses, and college classmates you haven’t spoken to for years could now be in positions that make them highly valuable connections.
Even if you weren’t close, it’s often much easier to start conversations and foster a mutually beneficial relationship with existing contacts than with people you just met.
That being said, your time is limited so you have to be selective with who you reconnect with.
To find the most promising opportunities, have your virtual assistant mine your network for connections who fit your target profile. All you have to do is give them criteria that describes what those people look like and they’ll give you a list to reach out to.
We recommend creating guidelines around:
- Job titles
Once you approve your virtual assistant’s list, they can help you remember to reach out, track which connections respond and schedule meetings.
2) Help You Find & Prepare for Networking Events
If you’re just starting to get more involved in your city’s networking scene, finding events that are worthwhile can be a challenge. Instead of wasting time searching Meetup and LinkedIn, figure out what kinds of networking activities you want to participate in and let your virtual assistant do the research.
All you need to do is give them the following criteria:
- Topic & audience - what themes are you interested in?
- Price - free or maximum cost
- Location - how far are you willing to go for an event?
- Time and dates - do you prefer breakfast meetings or happy hours? Events on weekdays or the weekends?
- Any other criteria you want them to pay attention to
Using these guidelines, your virtual assistant will give you a list of events on a weekly or monthly basis (depending on your preference) so that you always know what relevant events are coming up.
Once you’ve decided what events you want to attend, your virtual assistant can help you prepare by RSVPing you, clearing space on your schedule, and researching speakers and/or attendees.
3) Manage Your Contacts to Foster Lasting Relationships
One of the biggest professional networking mistakes leaders make is failing to stay in touch with their connections. Life gets busy and unless you have a system to manage your contacts you’ll miss out on all the collaboration opportunities you sought out by networking.
To foster lasting, mutually beneficial relationships you need to follow-up on all action items from your conversations and check in periodically so that your connections remember that you’re a valuable part of their network.
With a virtual assistant, managing your contacts is easy. All you have to do is give them access to your CRM and inbox and share key information about your contacts including:
- Details and action items from your conversations
- The type of relationship (ex. Prospect, potential business partner, investor, etc.)
- When you want to meet with them next
They’ll record all of that information in your CRM and give you follow-up reminders at the appropriate times so you don’t have to keep track of all your relationships.
If you don’t have a CRM, we strongly recommend getting one. Though it’s possible to manage your contacts using your email platform and a spreadsheet, it’s much easier to stay organized with a CRM. Don’t know which one to pick? Check out this guide:
If you hire our virtual assistant service, your Engagement Manager will help you set up your CRM so it can effectively manage your professional network.
4) Maximize the ROI of Conferences
Conferences bring together many of the brightest and most successful people in your industry, but, if you don’t plan them right, it’s difficult to get an ROI. To justify your time and conference ticket, you need to walk away with several connections that have a strong likelihood of turning into successful business relationships.
A virtual assistant can help you arrive at conferences prepared to meet your target audience and leave with a system to continue conversations with all the people you met. Here’s how:
Before a conference, your virtual assistant can help you prepare by:
- Researching speakers and workshop leaders to give you recommendations on which ones to attend
- Researching attendees to give you a list of key people to look for
- Helping with travel and other arrangements as needed
After conferences, your virtual assistant can help you stay in touch with the new contacts by:
- Logging all your new contacts into your CRM
- Creating draft follow-up emails for every contact
- Scheduling calls with contacts you want to continue having a conversation with
If there are any other tasks you need help with during your conference, loop in your virtual assistant. They are committed to helping you maximize your time.
5) Network While Traveling
Business trips provide a great opportunity to catch up with long-distance connections. To take advantage, offload travel management to your virtual assistant. Before booking your flights, they’ll give you a list of connections in the city you’re visiting and ask if you want to meet with any connections while you’re there.
If so, they’ll schedule meetings with those contacts and ensure your travel arrangements accommodate those extra stops.
Grow Your Professional Network Without the Hassle
Leveraging a virtual assistant for professional networking lets you maintain an ever-growing network without having to waste time doing all of the research and task management required to find opportunities and stay in touch. Our virtual assistants are trained to support you with these professional networking activities. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions or want to get started.
About the Author: Emily formerly led Prialto's content production and distribution team with a special passion for helping people realize success. Her work and collaborations have appeared in Entrepreneur, Inc. and the Observer among others.