Whether you’re in search for your next job, looking to nail some promising prospects, generate referrals for your business, or if you’re simply seeking for personal growth and finding opportunities to advance in your chosen career and industry – ‘Business Networking’ almost always functions as the ‘precursor’ to the success of each of these objectives.
Estimates suggests that over 85% of all jobs are filled through ‘networking’ process of one kind or the other; and it comes as no surprise that 95% of people say Face-to-Face meetings are essential for long-term business relationships.
The benefits however could range from fishing for new contacts/referrals, to looking for more visibility/exposure, to finding solutions for your problems, or to expand and share your knowledge/experience…
Whichever benefits you’re looking for, here are 5 handy tips to help you network effectively and realise your business objectives:
1. Stop Selling & Start Listening
What many of us tend to do when meeting someone new at a networking events is, after a quick introductory conversation, we immediately start ‘selling’, exchange business cards and then swiftly jump to the next person.
Now let's be honest, that’s a big put off for the person on the receiving end – as you’ll be perceived as someone who’s only trying to push his/her agenda and is least interested in building an amicable business relationship.
You may be pressed with time, and would like to build as many contacts as possible to increase your chances of creating multiple business opportunities, but quite frankly, at the end of the event, when you get home all you’re left with is a bunch of business cards – clueless to the stories behind those names and job titles, and to the next logical step in nurturing that relationship.
Here’s what you should considering doing instead – Start listening. Drop the “what’s in it for me?” attitude and focus on understanding the person you’re talking to. Resist the urge to blurt out your sales pitch straight up – instead allow your newfound friend to talk his/her heart out by being an active listener.
‘Active listening’ means focusing all of your senses in absorbing what the person has to say, and being genuinely interested by asking the right questions when needed. You should be making the eye contact and constantly nodding to show your agreement. Always refrain from body language that signals you being bored, uninterested or impatient, such as shifting your body weight too often, crossing your arms, fidgeting or glancing at your watch.
A good listener makes others feel comfortable. When you’re genuinely interested, they open up to you, it builds trust and excites them to share their narratives, and to look for a sustained business relationship.
2. Be Sincere… Be Yourself!
Sincerity is one crucial mantra every networker should follow. The idea is to be your true self and not go around putting up a personality, which you think will impress the lot.
If you’re not good at making great conversations, or if you’re not a ‘social butterfly’ like the pro networkers – don’t put up an act and try to pull it off, it will only be too obvious for others and they’ll quickly recognise your superficial behaviours and treat you as a ‘phony’ with repugnance and skepticism.
Your true self will resonate better. You could even talk about how you’re not good at making small talk, but can only delve into the ‘meat’ of things within your niche. That sort of candidness and honesty could actually be perceived as an attractive trait to others and will earn you the respect and trust needed to move further into a meaningful conversation.
3. Prepare & Always Give Before You Take
While networking with people at events and meets, there will always come a point in the conversation when you have to deliver your ‘elevator pitch’ or the sales pitch – that’s when you don’t want to be fumbling with your words and giving sloppy statements, instead prepare and practice your pitches multiple times before coming to the event.
You may also want to create different version of your sales pitches for different occasions, a slight change in the wording and in the examples or experiences you mention, can be made to suit the context at hand. We all have our story to tell.
An important rule of thumb is to ‘always give before you take’, meaning – don’t be too impatient to approach the busy people in the room to make connections and receive something right away. But take your time, be generous and let the connection build in a much more organic manner.
Always give more than the other person. To quote a mantra that Gary Vaynerchuk abides by - “Provide 51% of the value in a relationship, whether it’s with an employee, a client, or a stranger.”
4. Leveraging ‘Connectors’ & Influencers
Here’s a neat trick, if you find it uncomfortable or hard to approach every other stranger at a networking event. Before going to network, you can identify 2-3 influencers, keynote speakers or ‘connectors’ participating in the event. You can then do your research on these influencers through their Twitter feeds, LinkedIn accounts, websites, blogs or going through books if they’ve authored any, etc.
Once you have a better insight into their works, their role and authority in the industry, it's much easier to ascertain and prequalify what kind of topics would pique their curiosity or better still, what value you can provide them – being armed with what you've researched, you're far better prepared to strike a hearty conversation.
If you can manage the interaction for even a few minutes, you’ll notice that others like you will join in on the conversation (being the influencers, they’re highly likely to attract more attendees in the event) – ultimately helping you to network with more people, without trying too hard or being apprehensive about it.
5. Follow Up & Keep Your Promises
It's believed you only have about 48 hours to follow up with someone you just met, before they forget about meeting you. This is the most crucial step a networker should take after he/she meets a prospect, client or a referrer.
The first thing you need to do when you get back to your office/home after a networking meet is to, send a quick follow up email to those new friends, reminding of the conversation that took place, and how you appreciated their take on certain issues.
Remember, to have this memory in place, you first need to jot down those important points soon after you speak to the person in the event. A good way to store this info is to immediately take notes behind the business card of the person after your conversation is over.
You can also use social media like LinkedIn to add the new contacts with a personalised messages - (of course your message can stand out by revisiting any specific issues or points from your conversation that took place while networking).
A follow up email is also your chance to nurture that initial connection by sending out any pdfs, links or resources, which you committed to send over – Keeping such promises will improve your chances to develop the relationship further.
If you’d like to learn more, here’s a cool infographic from Editorial Intelligence on how connected we really are and how can we network better:
Though networking may seem too much of a ‘pain’ or a labour-intensive activity, in today’s world, especially with social media and professional medium like LinkedIn – it's the key to opening many new doors and countless opportunities for new businesses, career growth, creativity, and to realise one’s personal and organisational goals!
Call Andy Fox (me) on (03) 5249 5570 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Our Website is www.element7digital.com.au