Networking is circular - what goes around comes around
We get it, sometimes the networking world can be a little scary. It's a fumble of what to say, to overthinking what to say, to then be not sure if you said or behaved the appropriate way.
It can be absolutely simple and significantly impact your business and your self esteem in a great way.
So, we've made it a little easier to find your footings and to be a little more confident in "putting yourself out there".
#1 - What Do You Want To Be Remembered For?
Ultimately this is the biggest challenge that we all face - "who am I?", "what is it that I do?", "why do I do it?" are all questions that we normally will avoid answering for ourselves. We know of many that just "wing it" when it comes to their pitch. There are some benefits to both approaches, yet we the biggest thing is - is it obvious what you do?
If not - we suggest you CONTACT us.
#2 - Identify 3-5 People
Think of people in your business environment who inspire you or that you feel have good connections - that you could cross network with. Ask them what is their go-to networking tip is, and/or if they can introduce anyone to you. Also be sure to ask them what their ideal referral or testimonial would be.
#3 - Give Without Expectations
Do things for others - not to get something back. Can you volunteer your time, gift something, sponsor something?
Is one of your good clients involved in a specific charity - do they personally contribute alot of time and energy to it? How can you help them out? Maybe pitch in and volunteer some time yourself.
#4 - Givers Gain
Give away one referral a day to someone in your network. If you cannot give a referral, give a testimonial or a review.
Believe that there is enough to go around - and that there is really no such thing as competition. In order to receive you must feel good enough to give. What you give out is what you will get back - same with your energy. Is it positive, or is it driven by fear?
#5 - Get Sentimental
If you are asking for a sponsorship or volunteered time - how can you give back in a meaningful way? Maybe a certificate or thank you card branded with their logo that could be presented with a nice frame in their office adds tangible evidence of their involvement. It's often displayed immediately.
#6 - Outsource
What are you lagging behind on or what tasks are you procrastinating about?
Do you need to call an expert to complete that service for you? If you are wanting people to see you as an expert and pay for your services, then respect that there is also some people out there wanting to help you too.
Example; You could spend an hour and a half of your time ($120+gst an hour) mowing the lawns, or you could get someone that charges you $45 for them and it's all done for you. What would you choose? I know what I will be choosing.
#7 - Get Really Clear About What You Want
Communicate what specific referrals you are looking for - announce it, explain it in a way that is simple. In the BNI (business networking international group) format, we are to have "dances" with our group members. Which basically means a coffee catch-up to ask about each others businesses and work out the best way to give referrals to each other. It's a great way to understand each others needs.
#8 - Follow Up
When you are given a referral - ensure that you are effective and effecient. If it's not quite your area of expertise, who will be that you can refer them to? Be sure to keep in touch with that initial referal as they may have a network of their own that could be of value to you.
Get to know people, understand what makes them hum, what makes their lives enjoyable?
9 - Personalise Connections
Do you always find that you forget people's names after hearing it - straight away? *raises hand*
Well help people out - if you are introducing someone to a new prospect - add something personal to it, like so... "Hey Taz, I'd like to introduce you to Charlie, from ABC Company - he's into riding dirt bikes too". Immediately you have given someone an opportunity to spark a conversation with a memorable and relatable conversation. You will find that is equally helpful when you are introduced to someone - "oh hey Charlie (always repeat back their name to help immediate recognition), so what does ABC Company do, and what sort of dirtbike do you ride?"...
See - takes the guess-work out ;)
#10 - Make use of Icebreakers
If you are stuck for conversations with someone - you can always start with "what made you get into the business you are in", or "if you were starting your business afresh what would you do differently".
Ask open questions, get to know people and their interests - it helps build rapport. Encourage mingling again outside of the networking arena. Organise playdates with your kids, get involved with community groups, share hobbies.
I think so many PC rules apply with the professional / social mingling that it actually makes people freeze in terms of what is acceptable. At the end of the day - it's up to you what boundaries you choose to put in place. If you ever feel vulnerable or emotionally off balance because of someone - that's normally a good sign and indicator that it's time to step back into being professional.
Just don't give up. Networking is a long-term game.
You are just 60 seconds of a first impression away from a new lead - make it count.
If you have a strong networking game - what is the biggest lesson you've had - leave a comment below. I'm super interested to know what has worked and what hasn't.