I know many of you share my sentiment when it comes to forcing yourself into a conversation for the sake of promoting…well you!
Networking for me always seemed a little fake and disingenuous.
But when you think about it, networking when done right and with the right intentions is far from being fake and insincere.
The problem with networking is that we suddenly act in a way that is “not normal” for us so it comes across as uncomfortable, awkward and pushy.
So how do you move from networking being that awkward, I’m only talking to you because I want to sell, pitch or get something out of you to a genuinely friendly, unselfish and useful experience that still allows you to showcase your value as a professional to others?
Networking is a skill that successful entrepreneurs understand, utilize and master every single day to open up new doors of opportunity. In an effort to help you get out of your networking stupor, I have outlined 17 networking tips any entrepreneur can master.
Why Are You Networking In The First Place?
1. It’s Not Who You Know, It’s Who Knows You - The most important goal of networking is to show people how you can help them. Your talent is important and it isn’t who you know, but who knows you and knows what you know.
A strong professional network opens up doors of opportunity far beyond your immediate contacts. Opportunities often arise when someone you know refers you to someone you don’t know because that person is looking to fill a specific set of needs and your direct contact feels you would be a good fit.
Your job during networking is to simply let people know who you are and the value you can provide to others. Do a good job at this and when the time comes you’ll be the first person that comes to mind.
2. Go Where The Relationships Are – Want to network? Take the time to go where such relationships can happen. Attend meetups with groups that share similar passions as you. While you want to network with people in the same or related niche, don’t forget about meeting people outside of your business realm. Some of the very best business opportunities and partnerships I’ve had have come from meeting people outside of my niche.
3. Found them? Now develop them - Networking is a two-way street and you always want to feel that you are developing real connections with people that last beyond the initial introduction. To understand the people you want to potentially do business with in the future, you must get to know them. You must engage, ask questions, and nurture conversations. You have to find out what’s important to them, what their goals are along with their needs. And the only way to do this is to maintain regular correspondence with them.
4. Validate Others First – It’s never a great idea to request anything, of anyone right off the bat. Keep in mind that you must earn favor, don’t expect anything from anyone – especially if you have not given any value first. Compliment, use positive banter and if people are response, they have opened themselves to doing business with you.
5. Value is the # 1 Priority – You should always approach networking from the position of “How much value can I provide?” The more value you create the more the ‘law of reciprocity” will kick in and you’ll find good things will always be waiting for you. When you focus on helping the people you contact people will be more and more willing to help you out in return.
6. Plant the seeds, but don’t forget to water the grass – What make networking work is your ability to nurture your current network. You can not build your business on new business relationships alone, reach out to the network that you already have. Share beneficial information with friends, family, co-workers, associates, etc. These people already have some level of trust when it comes to dealing with you and will be more apt to share what you have going on with others.
7. The Power of 5 – Set a goal to reach out the a minimum of 5 new people a day. This can be on Facebook, at networking events, conferences and even when you are out doing your daily routine. If you reach out to 5 new people every single day, that would be about 1,825 new connections a year. Not everyone you connect with is going to respond and most connections will not yield any immediate return (if any at all) but if you reach out to that many new people, then you’re bound to bump into the right person at the right time who can help you grow your business.
8. Your Network Is Your Net “worth” - Remember to choose your networks wisely. Attend events that have the type of people who can really support you and your business in a positive way. When you can leave an event feeling like you’ve just been injected with a dose of positive possibilities you know you’re around the right group of people. Remember you network is your net worth so make sure you are meeting and greeting with positive, professional and prosperous driven individuals.
9. Be likeable - While there are many people out there that have the “value” factor, not everyone has the “like” factor. People will do business with people they know, like and trust. If you are lacking on any one of those three levels find out where you need to improve – because not being liked can ruin your business and reputation.
10. Keep an open mind -Some of the most unlikely partnerships flourish out of opportunities of openness. Don’t ever underestimate or cast someone off as irrelevant because they don’t meet the expectation of what your ideal “networking connection” should look, walk, talk, act or be like. Maybe you don’t think a local school teacher wouldn’t be a good contact because you don’t have any kids but if you sell a product that is for kids or better yet a product for parents with kids, you’ll be glad you reached out to someone that has the “in” with your target audience.
11. Be yourself – This networking tip should be a no-brainer but you’d be surprised by how many people network “outside of themselves”. Networking is so fun because you get to meet people from all walks of life, who come from different backgrounds, and possess skill sets different than your own. Appreciate the fact that you are unique as well and that while you may not be everyone’s cup of tea, the people who you do attract are the ones you are supposed to be connected to. Don’t fall into the trap of acting, looking, and walking like someone else just because that is what you think others want to see. Keep it real and your connections will be more meaningful and based on your true authentic self rather than some wannabe.
12. Remember the core of belly to belly “networking” – Not all business can be done virtually through social media outlets. Get out of the house, volunteer, join groups, and become active in a community where you can meet people of similar interest. Offer your services (pro bono) to a non-profit organization, church or school. This is how real relationships are formed.
13. Don’t waste time – People are extremely busy. You must be respectful of other people’s time – the same as you would want them to respect your time. Time in essence is more valuable than money. Get to the point, state your business and discuss the matters at hand. Your goal is to have leave a conversation feeling productive, positive and like the time spent was well worth it.
14. Focus on Quality NOT Quantity – what’s the point in having hundreds, even thousands of people in your Rolodex if they are not the right people to move your business forward. Instead, focus on networking with people that are relevant to you. It’s better to have a handful of people who can truly increase your business clout than it is to have many that only know your name.
15. Become A Social Connector – Get into the habit of not only introducing yourself but introducing others. Become a connector, tie people who need each other together. The best networkers are business match makers. The simple task of connecting like-minded people who share similar interests is a powerful to enhance your network. Once you do the initial introduction, step back and let them take it from there. If it flourishes into something greater, you’ll be remembered as the one who sparked the connection and people will be forever grateful.
16. Let Your Business Card Do The Talking – One of the best tools I have in my networking toolbox is my business card. Have a business card that makes an impact and deep impression on your connection. A great business card will have people talking. If you exchange business cards and no one comments on yours you are missing an opportunity. I use business cards by moo which allows me to promote myself and draw people to my online profile. I can’t tell you how many positive comments I’ve gotten just from handing out my card – these are the tiny things that make people remember you long after the networking event is over!
17. Follow Up – The real networking comes after the initial introduction. Make sure you are following up with your new connection withing 24-48 hours of meeting them. You want to stay at the top of their minds and on the tip of their tongues so to ensure you are not easily forgotten send a thank you note, email or text. Pick up the phone, send a Facebook message or tag a picture of you and your new connection. The better you are at carrying the conversation outside of the initial meetup, the better chances you have of building a strong relationship that can lead to a golden opportunity.
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