Networking is Key to Your Career or Business Growth
“If your networking strategy is simply about getting what you want, that’s called ‘using’ not ‘networking.'”
I love this quotation that Sociallogical shared from businessman Paul C. Brunson because chances are you’ve gotten the hard sell from someone you barely know. They want you to buy now, or they want to meet your biggest client, or they’re a competitor who wants to know your secret sauce.
That’s not how you build relationships or a solid reputation. But here’s how you can:
1 Start with an event that easy for you
Join your professional association. Attend a Chamber of Commerce event at your favourite bar. Or, check out a local women’s networking group. Your choice.
2 Focus on the other person
Be helpful and kind to the people you meet. Be willing to help people through referrals or advice if they ask for it. If you promise you’ll do something, do it within 24 hours.
3 Ask more questions
Have a couple of open-ended questions for the other person when you get nervous:
- What kind of projects do you work on?
- What do you like best about working at XYZ company?
- What made you decide to become and XYZ professional?
- What do you see as the coming trends in your industry?
4 Treat everyone equally
The vendor. The waitress. The competitor. Be kind. Be inclusive. Be civil. People do business with people they like.
5 Take the high road. Always.
A newcomer went to a networking event and was telling tales trashing another person in his profession. What he didn’t know is that half the people there also used to work with the other guy and respected him. Things like that get remembered for a very long time. Stay positive.
6 Have a networking pitch
A sales pitch is for someone who expresses that they need your product or services or that they want to hire someone like you. A networking pitch is to create interest in you when someone asks you what you do for a living in casual conversation. It encourages people to ask questions. Use your own words, and be conversational. Do it all in 10 seconds or less. If they want more details, they’ll ask.
Examples: I provide stress relief to small business. I’m a paperwork guru. OR I’m a passionate baker who was born to feed people.
7 Have a goal
Identify three potential clients and challenge yourself to meet them at the next event. Or, you could challenge yourself to speak to two new people. Whatever your next step is.
8 Maintain a database
Add the people you’ve met to your CRM (customer relationship management) software or contacts with notes about how you met and any personal information you learned about them (pets, hobbies, etc.).
9 Target your networking time
Time is your most valuable resource so once you’re comfortable, volunteer or attend events that potential clients or employers attend. Use your time wisely.
Networking is a skill. It doesn’t come easy to many of us ~ including me. I’m more comfortable training 50 strangers or offer a keynote address than attend a networking event where I know only a few people. But we can all get better at it. It’s your turn to polish your networking skills this month. What are you going to do differently at your next networking event?
PS After I wrote this post, I was fortunate to attend a lunch n learn with etiquette expert Jay Remer. He has some amazing information to share about networking to make it simple and effective. Check out his website.