Here are some ideas about networking for you to consider:
1. Start networking before you need sales.
By networking when you have no ulterior motive for sales, you can begin to build relationships and a reputation for being generous rather than self-serving. You can also learn a lot from the people you meet who will want to help you launch your business.
2. Have a plan.
Know your value. Before you attend any networking event, get clear on what talents, strengths, skill sets and connections you can bring to the table. Map out
what you want to talk about, particularly how you may be able to help other people, either now or in the future. Know why you are there – ask yourself if the group you are in is the right one for you and your business. Your objectives for being part of a group may not be solely sales – support, education, relationships are all legitimate and important goals.
3. Forget your personal agenda.
While you may be tempted to network just to land a job or talk to people you normally wouldn’t have access to, that’s a mistake. Instead, make it your goal to be open, friendly and honest, and to forge connections between people who may be able to help each other. Generosity is an attractive quality and it’s something special that people will remember about you.
4. Focus on the relationships.
Make it your mission to discover the value in each person you talk to. Ask questions and listen with interest. Remember that everyone knows someone and they may have valuable connections or knowledge you’d never learn about if you’d dismissed them.
5. Connect the dots.
Once you begin to listen to people and learn what they can bring to the table, you’ll start realizing how one person in the room may be able to help another. Make it a point to connect people you feel have something of genuine value to each other. When you go out of your way to make those potentially promising connections, you’re doing your part to make the networking event a success.
6. Figure out how you can be useful.
Before any conversation comes to a close, consider asking, “How can I help you?” Because it’s done so rarely, you may encounter a surprised look, but it will most likely be accompanied by an appreciative smile. While the person may not have an answer for you that night, they may have an idea later. You can suggest they reach out via LinkedIn” and present your business card.
7. Follow up and follow through.
If you told someone you’d get in touch with them, do it and reaffirm your intent to assist in any way you can. If you promised to introduce someone to a person you know, take the time to do it. Everyone is busy these days with jobs, families, events, commitments – even so, it takes no more than a minute to shoot off an email to introduce two people you want to connect. They can take it from there and do the work — just enjoy being the bridge. Little things like that mean a lot to people and just one introduction can end up changing someone’s life for the better. I’ve seen it happen dozens of times and it’s quite gratifying.
8. Give it time
Good relationships take time to develop. Part of earning trust is demonstrating your reliability. That means making a commitment to the group simply for the value inherent is being part of a group.
9. Be genuine and authentic
This can’t be emphasized enough. Vulnerability can be strength. Networking can be challenging for some people, but in the right situation, it can also be very rewarding and enjoyable. It takes courage to stand up and talk, but it also takes courage to sit down and listen. Good relationships are built on kindness, regard, and respect. These are qualities that are genuine and authentic, as they come from the heart.
In its purest form, networking is about people enjoying other people, communicating passions and connecting with others who
share those passions. It’s about listening, figuring out what others need and connecting them with people you think can help, without any designs for personal gain. The most successful networkers build genuine relationships and give more than they receive. They go beyond thinking, “What’s in it for me?” to ask “How can I help?”
Like happiness, developing a relationship is a journey not a destination. Enjoy the journey and your fellow travelers on that journey.