Networking. The word on everyone’s lips these days. Whether you are at a church program or business seminar or chatting with friends, you will notice a constant emphasis on the need to meet and interact with other people almost as a pre-requisite for expanding and growing your business or career. Business leaders are talking about it, mentors are advocating it and everyone appears to be carried away in the frenzy.
Everyone except a select group of individuals who see networking not only as a bore but also as something they would rather not do. Why will an anyone dread the opportunity to meet other people who may have the ability to advance their career or business you may ask? Perhaps it is because of their personality type. Extroverts are generally known to have an easier time socializing and even enjoy meeting new people while introverts would rather spend time alone and usually prefer smaller intimate settings.
There are several reasons why some people are averse to networking but the most common reason is isolation. There is the fear of going to an event where you do not know anybody and standing the risk of being left hanging or looking lost. The other issue with networking is how to maximize the opportunity so that it benefits your business or career as the case may be.
In her New York Times best selling book #GirlBoss, founder and CEO of Nasty gal, Sophia Amuroso who is also an introvert lends her voice to the conversation. She says: “A disproportionate amount of importance is placed on the ability to network. If you don’t thrive on going out and meeting a million people, you might end up feeling like you have less of a chance of getting ahead in your career or business.”
If you struggle with the whole idea of networking, think about it like word of mouth advertising only this time it is coming from the source. It affords you the opportunity to meet other like-minded people, industry leaders, and key influencers in your field. You might also be fortunate to form a relationship that could lead to a strategic alliance.
Popular networking opportunities include trade shows, conferences, seminars, and social gatherings. You can also online using platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook.
So how can you break the nerves and embrace networking? Here are seven strategies to help you network like a pro:
There are so many events but not all will be right for you. When deciding which ones to attend, consider factors like what the event is about, what you want to achieve, and how best the event can suit your current situation and business or career needs. A platform like Eventbrite, which allows people to create and find listings of events, can be very useful in planning what events to attend.
Set Goals For the Event
Think quality vs. quantity. Do you want to meet 50 new people and just say hi or would you rather connect with 3 people and have meaningful conversations? Do you want to meet a thought leader or influencer in your industry or do you want 25 more contacts on your email list? The goal you set will form the backdrop of everything else you do at the event. Also be realistic and sincere about what you can achieve.
Practice your pitch. The last thing you want at a networking event is to be incoherent. Assume that everyone will ask you who you are and what you do. Write down what you will say and practice it, that way when you meet ‘that influencer’, you will not be tongue-tied. You should tell them what you do in an interesting and memorable way without sounding all technical and complex. Remember the KISS rule: Keep It Short and Simple. Ensure that you have all your marketing materials (business cards, fliers and brochures) ready.
Networking is not about gathering or distributing business cards. Don’t hand your business card to just everybody you meet; it will end up in the thrash! Seek out meaningful conversations and if you have connected well, offer them your business card and ask for an opportunity to meet again.
Do Not Try to Sell Immediately
People buy from people they know. If you come across as trying to sell, you will only end up looking desperate and phony. Instead listen to the people you meet. If they are in your industry ask them what challenges they are facing and what they need help with the most. Doing this will give you a better perspective and will help you tailor your offering in a more succinct manner should you wish to do business with them.
Move Out of Your Comfort Zone
The whole purpose of networking is meeting and knowing new people. If you are fortunate to know some of the attendees before hand, read more about them and their business and find out if you have areas of mutual interest. This will help you broaden your knowledge and develop new skills.
Relationships are not built in one day; it takes time and effort. If you meet someone and have a good chat, it’s only beneficial that you follow up with an email after the event. In some cases, you might hit it off so well you become instant buddies, in that case a Whatsapp message or BBM as the case may be will be appropriate.
Networking is about relationship building. The more you interact with other people, the more confident you will become at selling your skills and ideas.
People don’t care how much you know till they know how much you care. So build a relationship first and then you can sell. And as the popular saying goes: “Your Network is Your Net-worth.”
What are your thoughts about networking and do you have any additional tips? Please share in the comments.
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