Making meaningful connections: networking advice from Deloitte Tanzania’s Country Leader

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Eshak Harunani is Deloitte’s Country Leader and an Audit Partner. During a recent event in Tanzania, he shared some of his thoughts on how to network well. In this article, we pick out three of our favourite pieces of advice.


You have more in common with people than you think

Developing professional relationships can be difficult, Eshak says: “The most challenging networks to me have been business networks. It’s easier when you’re at your children’s school because you have things in common. When you talk to someone for the first time at an event, you think ‘what do I talk about?’ – you’re looking to find that common ground.”

But, according to Eshak, there’s one important fact you need to remember when you’re at a networking event: “If you are there to network, the chances are that they are there for the same reason. The very fact you are in the same place is something in common; that can spark conversation.”

To really develop a relationship beyond that initial meeting, you need to go further than the usual platitudes. Eshak gives some advice on taking a business relationship to the ‘next level’: “You need to be deliberate and strategic, sending a cursory follow-up email isn’t enough. I look at opportunities to meet them again, I get to know what else they do socially and see if I can meet them there.”

Don’t do the hard sell

It’s important to remember that a business relationship still runs on the same principles as any other. As Eshak says: “Relationships are about giving and taking. Relationship building is not about selling. If you’re going out looking to sell something, you will not build a relationship – sales should not be part of it.”

Instead, according to Eshak, it’s about what you can offer. “You should not talk about selling, it’s about what you have that can benefit the other person. For example, saying, ‘I’ve got a glass of water I’m selling for 1,000 shillings’ is vastly different from saying ‘this will help you quench your thirst’, I think the distinction there matters.”

Working with networks

One of the main barriers to building quality networks, is accessing the right people. Eshak has two approaches to take in this scenario. The first tip, he says, is a similar principle to something you’d see on LinkedIn: “You know when you look at someone’s profile and it says ‘this connection can introduce you this person’ – that’s what networks are about, perhaps you can’t get directly to that person but someone else you know can.”

The second piece of advice is not forgetting how important ‘gatekeepers’ (often assistants and secretaries) are: “That person is very important because they control access to the person you want to reach as well as the timing of that access. They may not be that senior in the organisation but you can’t ignore the gatekeeper.”