Why build your professional network?
Whoever said, “It’s not what you know, but who you know” could not have been more correct. Companies do not make decisions; it is the people behind the company who do that. It would be nice if any business were able to rely on word of mouth alone. The reality, however, is that you need to work to get your business name out there. Networking goes hand in glove with building a successful business and growing your customer base.
But how do you build a successful network and how does that network lead to future business? Here are my top 9 tips on how to network successfully.
How to Network – 9 Top Tips
1. Arrive early.
If you are anything like me, (a full-on introvert) arriving early seems like rubbing salt into the networking wound. However,the room is not only quieter, but people have not yet settled into their groups. It is much easier to find other people to start a conversation with.
2. Be Friendly.
Those of a certain age will remember “The Green Cross Code Man” and his constant plea to “Stop, Look and Listen” when crossing the road. Well, a similar instruction can be used for networking; “Stop (worrying), Look (interested) and Listen to what the person is saying”
Don’t be a wallflower and hang around the periphery of a group – get in there! Smile, walk up to someone and simply ask if you may join them. Follow this with a simple question like “where have you come from”, or “What brings you here?”.
3. What a Pain (Point)!
The truth is that people enjoy talking about themselves. They aren’t really interested in you as a person, only in your ability to resolve their “pain point”. Listen to what they say and appear interested.
You will find it easier to build rapport with others if they feel you have a genuine interest in them. If the conversation stalls, then ask for advice. People love to feel they are regarded as an “expert” in their field!
Listen out for “pain points” or challenges the other person is experiencing – maybe this is something that you could help them with? A great way to start building professional relationships.
4. Mingle with intent!
Having found someone to talk to and listened intently, asked the right questions and expressed an interest in them and what they do, it is important to remember that you will build your network quicker the more people you interact with. So do not be tempted to hold on to your new contact as though he/she were the last remaining life-raft on a sinking ship. Move on politely and repeat the above.
5. Think Long-Term
Make sure you exchange business cards with everyone, even those people that you feel may never be a client.
Learning how to network successfully is not just about building relationships with those you meet, but about building a relationship with that person so that if they have a client in need of your services, they immediately think of you as the “Go-to” person for that service.
You should be aiming at building long-term, sustainable relationships instead of “quick – fix” ones.
6. Be passionate.
If you have no passion for your own business, then how can you expect others to?
Make sure to tell people your story. People generally buy into a story, especially one where you convey, for example, your inspiration for starting your company, or what about your business gives you a reason to get out of bed in the morning!
Be concise and try and weave in some examples of how you may have helped a client with similar issues to the person you are talking to.
7. Don’t hard sell.
Networking is all about building relationships.
Someone may not need your services now, but that is not to say that they won’t in 3 months time.
No one likes a hard sell, so keep the tempo upbeat and light. If someone does ask about your product or services, try and have a concise summary of what you offer ready to wow them.
Try to use real-life examples of how you have helped clients in the past and try to get some basic information on what that person is after in terms of services/products. Then remember after the event to….
8. Follow Up.
It is perfectly okay to ask someone their preferred method of communication.
There is no point in trying to call them when they are constantly out of the office and only respond via Twitter message, for example. Remember, you want to talk to that person and bypass their gatekeeper wherever possible.
As soon as possible after the event, contact the person, add them to your social media platforms and continue interacting and conversing with them. Build a reputation as someone who delivers on their promises.
9. It’s not all about Business!
It is important to remember that networking is a fickle friend and you may attend events that result in no business whatsoever. Unfortunately, rejection is all part of the game, but at least you tried! Much better to try and be rejected, than not try at all and hopefully, any rejection will make you stronger the next time!
What are your top tips on how to network? Do you enjoy it, or treat it like a necessary evil? Let me know!
Please feel free to contact me to discuss how I can ease your business pain points…and the great thing is, you need not leave the comfort of your office! Call me, email me or connect with me on LinkedIn. I would love to get to know you and your business needs.