Effective networking is the key to your business and career success. You might think networking is hard work, or maybe you don’t even like the word, as it has become a byword for shallow insincerity. You may not know how to network, worrying about what to say and what to do next.
But true networking doesn’t have to be a clinical assembling of people from who you can profit. Networking, based on real connections, can help you achieve your goals and find success. Authentic networking formed on good relationships is an effective strategy.
Here are some expert tips for building genuine relationships to kickstart your success.
- Reframe your definition of networking
If you reframe networking into relationship-building, chances are you will approach it with a very different frame of mind. You’re not collecting business cards for the sake of it but meeting new people and connecting with them. Find what you have in common and take it from there.
- Set a goal
Be strategic in your networking and have a goal in mind when you’re building relationships. You’re not networking for the sake of it but to get you closer to achieving your goal. That doesn’t mean you will be exploiting your new contacts, but it does mean that you’re not aimlessly connecting with whoever comes along.
Knowing your ultimate outcome will help you to find and connect with the right groups and/or people who can get you there. If you see a product or service, have goals to talk to people who need them; this will help you gain more clarity in choosing networking events or groups.
- Make a plan
Networking should have a specific purpose – who do want to connect with? How many people would you like to begin to establish relationships with – this will make it less overwhelming, as you don’t have to speak to everyone in the room. However, you can make connections who can make a connection to or for you. Being strategic will make networking less threatening and more purposeful.
- Building your focused network
Once you know who you need to have on your side to achieve your goals, you can start to build authentic relationships and grow your strategic network.
People love being asked for advice and appreciate feeling heard – think of networking as less about you and more about the other person. Ask insightful questions and practice your active listening. Pay particular attention to what people are telling you, making eye contact and mirror body language. These are not tricks, but effective ways of building trust and fostering good relationships.
5. The gold is in the follow-up
So now you’ve gathered business cards and made some connection, now what do you do? The key to successful networking is in the follow-up with those contacts made. This can include:
- A phone call, email, or text message
- Setting up a meeting to learn more about each other and how you can each be of help (referrals); meetings can be in-person or virtually
- Sending articles or recommendations for resources that may be of benefit to the other party, i.e. books, groups, podcasts, etc. (I have gotten speaking engagements this way)
- Asking to stay in touch, and doing so. This can be catching up with a meeting, or sending a ‘check-in’ email.
- Inviting the person to your event or to sample one of your offerings; this is a great way to help someone and to test your offerings; this can lead to testimonials and customers.
Networking doesn’t just happen in-person, although making these types of connections is better; but networking can happen in the online space, such as groups you belong to. Some people may never meet but have a kindred with others. Networking can also occur in your business or organization as you never know who someone knows – it’s the 6-Degrees of Keven Bacon.
You can always develop your networking skills as you go along. The key is to follow the steps above and get started.
If you’re ready to uplevel your skills to be the most effective in your business and career, call to learn more and get started today.