As diamond buyers and sellers, we are always looking to make new connections and find original ways to promote ourselves. Networking is a great method to develop partnerships and relationships that will yield results if not now, then certainly in the future.
What is Networking?
It’s important to recognize the difference between networking and pitching a sale. Networking is about working with other people in order to help them in some way, with the long-term goal of benefiting from a partnership and future collaborations with them.
For example, as a diamond dealer, you could introduce a manufacturer to someone who develops state-of-the-art software that streamlines the polishing process. There may be no immediate benefit to you, but if the manufacturer benefits from your suggestion, he may come back later and with a nice offer for you, like a discounted price on his diamonds.
Networking is based on the understanding that people need people – whether as sounding boards, or as friends to meet up with for an occasional drink when you are visiting in a distant city. Because the common bond between you is diamonds, you can help each other to navigate the industry and build your businesses.
Whether or not two people are in the same business, there is always something they can learn from each other. Networking is all about giving and receiving advice, brainstorming ideas and sharing information. Because information is power, passing on information to others who may benefit from it can help you to build your power-base. For example, if you know a great deal about current trends in a particular country’s diamond market, share it. People will start associating you with that area and possibly consider you the expert to go to for advice or product.
The Benefits of Networking
Because success in the diamond industry can be largely based on building your reputation as a dealer, if you establish trusting relationships, share information and build strong networks, people will be encouraged to rely on and recommend you to others.
You can enhance your business reputation by helping others with advice and support. For example, if your specialty is fancy color diamonds, you can advise a colleague about how to explain to their customer the difference between a natural fancy color diamond and a treated color diamond, or how the cost structure works for fancy color diamonds. If you know that a diamond manufacturer just had their website revamped by an excellent web design company, and you recommend that company to a friend who is setting up a new diamond investment business, they will appreciate that you have good connections in the manufacturing business and they may ask you to help them source good quality diamonds for their investors.
By being an active member of a networking community, it shows that you are not only a helpful person but also a ‘player’ in the industry that they can turn to for advice. If you can help someone when they are stuck, they will always remember your assistance and they should be happy to pay it forward. Becoming well-known among your prospects and connections is one of the most valuable elements in the connection process.
Networking Inside and Outside the Diamond Industry
Networking with people in parallel businesses and at different points along the supply chain can often result in strategic partnerships. Make sure you know people who deal in gems other than diamonds, like emeralds and rubies for example, so that next time one of your jewelry clients mentions that he is looking for a gemstone for a special piece, you can pull up the number of a reliable emerald dealer in the area. Making that connection, especially if a deal is made, will strengthen the relationship with your customer and the gemstone dealer.
Are There Times When It’s Best Not To Network?
Generally, even if a networking request comes from a direct competitor, you will still benefit from being perceived as kind and helpful if you try to comply. Remember the old expression, “What goes around, comes around.” If you receive an order that you cannot currently fulfil and you decide to refer your client to one of your business connections instead of turning him down, you are actually building up credit with both your competitor and your client - credit that they could each repay back to you in the future. There are many creative financial and referral solutions that can be made towards a happy ending as well.
Networking at Trade Shows
Attending trade shows is a prime opportunity to meet new people and make new connections because there’s a basis for common ground. When going to a trade show, one of your goals should be to network. You can meet other like-minded, complimentary and compatible professionals at topical break out sessions, at social functions and at booths that are similar to yours or interesting to you. Ask them how their businesses are going, what they would do to improve, what they specialize in, what their customers are interested in, what’s selling and what’s not, etc.
When you make a new contact, get a business card and write the name and date of the show on the back, as well as any other details to help you remember that person.
Of course, once you have made all these new contacts, be sure to follow up with them after the show to continue the relationship.
Using Social Media as a Means of Networking
Social media is all about networking – encourage people to ‘Like’ your page or ‘Share’ your content with their friends and connections, because they are happy to be seen to be associated with you. Remember to return the favor by sharing and liking them because that’s how you build up equity in social media. LinkedIn is a good networking site with a number of specialist groups for diamond industry professionals, such as the Diamond Networking Group, which has 12,340 members and an active discussion board with participants from all over the world. In addition to updating your own profile on LinkedIn, it’s a good idea to take the time to write recommendations for people you have done business with because that puts your name on their profile page. You can also ask them to recommend you in return, and those recommendations stay on your page forever!
Networking on an Online Diamond Trading Platform
Online diamond trading platforms are the perfect place to meet new contacts within the diamond industry, and it’s all at your fingertips. Many diamond trading platforms are predominantly used for buying and selling diamonds, but sites like RapNet offer easy methods of communication with other members through features such as a personal inbox for emailing and a chat feature on the mobile app which makes communication instant. Use these to your advantage to introduce yourself to other members of the trade and see if you can help them in some way, without necessarily pushing a sale, then a relationship can be formed.
RapNet also has a general forum for asking questions and seeking advice. This could be an opportunity to share your knowledge and expertise in the diamond and jewelry industry and to help your peers. This can boost your reputation as a diamond trader, help to build up your name and trustworthiness and ultimately encourage others to work with you.
It’s worth investing time in networking because its potential effects are significant and long lasting. Chris Garrett, who runs Shy Networking Seminars, says: “Every single new friend or contact you make is worth their weight in gold. You never know when a contact may give you a valuable lead, invite you to partner in a joint venture, or recommend you to someone. Many of the best opportunities are shared person-to-person in back channels. The better your network, the more knowledge you can tap into. Give a lot and you will have credit in the bank when you need to make a withdrawal.”