Many use networking as a sales and marketing tool to generate leads and they fail miserably. They collect hundreds of business cards without making any meaningful connections. Their approach to meeting someone new is like shaking hands with a wet fish.
Some people are natural at networking. They know who to approach, what to say, when to say it, and how to follow up. For most people, this is not the case. They break out in a cold sweat at the very thought of networking.
The good news, like any new skill, you can learn to network like a pro.
If you want to land a new job, advance your career, generate leads, grow a business, or become an industry leader, you must learn how to network like a pro. According to LinkedIn, 85% of all jobs are filled via networking. Most start-ups say networking is vital to entrepreneurial endeavors and many small businesses are likely to indicate some form of word of mouth is where they get most of their customers. Clearly, if you aren’t taking the opportunity to interact with others in your industry, you will miss out on opportunities to find new partnerships, generate referrals, or even land a new job.
Putting yourself in the public domain is not easy for some. To be successful and build a powerful network, it means growing yourself. Just because some people are comfortable talking to people they have never met (yes, the extroverts out there) it doesn’t mean they are any good at networking. In fact, talking too much can be a deterrent to building a substantial network.
Learning to approach people and engage with them takes advanced communication skills.
Do What Works Not What’s Easy
Many people place too much emphasis on what’s easy in the world of networking, not what works. They give advice like:
- “Set up a profile on LinkedIn,
- “Get active on social media”,
- “Send out some emails”
- “Go to a networking event.”
Really, how helpful is this? Most of you already know this should be part of your strategy, what is missing is the how!
Create A Networking Strategy
You don’t need to know the most people, you need to know the right people.
It is the same with networking, find networking events, or hang out online where you know you will find your target audience. Once you know who you want to reach out to, then start researching the types of events or online forums where these people are most likely to hang out. Adopting a networking strategy first is the difference between putting on a telescopic lens which is far more fruitful than a scattergun approach.
Establish a Networking Goal
There are many benefits to building a powerful network but only if you identify your goals first. Put that telescopic lens on every time you are reaching out to someone, establish the goal beforehand. Unless you establish a clear agenda first you are wasting your time. It might be to make new connections, learn about the latest developments in your industry, or even donate your time as a mentor to others.
Prepare Conversational Starters
To make a great first impression, consider how you can start up a conversation with a new connection. Questions are the answer – learn to listen more than you talk. By preparing yourself with great conversation starters you are opening up a conversation that allows the other person to talk. It’s about them not about you, you make longer-lasting connections when you look to give rather than receive.
Grow Your Circle of Influence
The circle of influence is not about who you know, it’s about who wants to know you!
Let’s face it if a friend or trusted colleague recommends a person or a business as being trustworthy and delivers a great service, aren’t you more likely to take their advice rather than risk doing business with someone you don’t know? People trust the advice of their friends over an advertisement.
Heard the expression, “All contacts are equal but some are more equal than others.” You’re going to come across people who become power contacts as you become more connected with those in your industry. These people will be the ones who will constantly introduce you to others resulting in a powerful network.
Don’t Expect Anything In Return
Networking can have a somewhat ‘sleazy’ association to it as people visualize the really loud person with 800 business cards who’s all talk and no action and try to sell you something before they finish shaking your hand. The primary purpose of networking is to make contacts and connections, not to sell anything. Knowing how to work the room without offending others is a key skill to learn.
Use Tact and Diplomacy
Would you walk up to a stranger on a street and ask them to buy your products then get upset when they reject you? Firstly, they don’t trust you and secondly, you have no idea if what you are trying to sell them suits their needs. Yet this is what so many people do online – they lack diplomacy & tact, and one of the ways that this rears its ugly head is that people will ask for things online that they’d never expect someone to give them in “real life.”
While most people on the street wouldn’t ask a stranger for $10, yet on the internet people will ask for THE WORLD and then get upset when you don’t respond! This approach comes across as sleazy – you need to build trust and rapport first.
On a Final Note
Make networking a regular activity and schedule it like you would any other meeting. Not only schedule the networking activity but also schedule the follow-up activity for the next day. Find a reason to follow up – it could be something you garnered from the conversation you had with them. You could forward a relevant article based on your conversation, invite them to a seminar or conference, or even just send a friendly note telling them it was great to meet them and you enjoyed your conversation about…. Whatever they talked about.
Learn the strategies behind becoming a successful networker with The Power of Networking: How to build a powerful network that gets results!
- Discover how to grow your ‘Circle of Influence’ and why this is key to your success.
- Discover the barriers that are holding you back.
- Learn why fear controls your networking nerves.
- Learn how networking fits into an overarching marketing strategy.
- Learn how to set up and run your own networking event that instantly grows your influence.
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