For those on the high end of the networking spectrum, the ability to create successful, meaningful business relationships comes as naturally as breathing. On the low end, networking can seem like a study in angst and awkwardness. For all the low-enders and everyone in the middle, the following tips may not clear up angst, but they will help with that pesky awkwardness AND put you in the best position to realize your networking goals. Speaking of goals:
Know what you’re about going in. Have your goals clearly in mind as you set forth so you can better predict who may be the best candidates for your network.
At Vision Offices, we’re all about helping our clients reach their business goals. Here are 8 tips for networking with success:
1. Pick your events.
Don’t feel you must attend every industry event, especially those that have been non-productive for you in the past. Try to be ‘in the know’ concerning who will be attending gatherings in which you might be interested.
2. Utilize social networks.
Of course, there’s the obvious, yet invaluable, juggernauts like Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter, but there are also smaller, more specialized sites for business pros, like Biznik or cmypitch. And, depending on your industry, there may also be a ‘niche’ social network that allows you to interact with your target market.
3. When meeting people, be discerning and open-minded.
Forget the scattershot approach. Randomly introducing yourself and handing out stacks of cards will only wear you out and bog you down. Try to start up a few friendly conversations here and there, and don’t try to only zone in on the ‘big fish’ in the room. Also, don’t be afraid to chat up those outside your industry, especially if there could be an opportunity for collaboration in the future.
4. Pitch with finesse.
Having your ‘elevator pitch’ at the ready is great, as long as it doesn’t come off rapid fire and largely unbidden. When introducing yourself, stick to the basics, like your business’s name and type. Have answers ready if questions are asked (current projects, recent achievements, etc.), but avoid bombarding the listener with too much information. Listen more than you speak and, hopefully, the other person will want to know more about you.
Ask not what potential network members can do for you, but rather, what you can do for them. Networking is similar to making friends: You need to BE the person you would most want to know.
5. Be truly interested in other people and their goals.
For best results, enthusiasm to be of service to colleagues really can’t be feigned. Ostensibly, we network to better our own prospects, but that isn’t as simple as just going in, trading cards and trading favors. In an active, successful networking community, the desire to help one another, without expectation, needs to be paramount. Like almost everything else in life, we get back what we put in.
6. Hone those listening skills.
Are you really interested in hearing others, or are you just biding your time until it’s your turn to speak again? Do you smile, make eye contact, give appropriate responses (both vocal and physical) and ask pertinent, intelligent questions? Remember, networking is a valuable opportunity to learn from peers and share what you’re passionate about with like-minded people.
7. Practice great follow-up.
Once you’ve decided to continue a networking relationship with someone, it’s a good idea to reach out within a few days to a week, ideally with the intention of finding out if there is any way you can be of service. If the other person is open to conversation or even meeting up, so much the better. Never take it personally if the other person doesn’t respond right away or is too busy to take your call. Let a little time pass before you try again.
8. Nurture older, but still productive, relationships.
While business depends on new opportunities and growth, our tried and true relationships may continue to bear fruit. Surely our existing contacts are out there gathering new contacts, too, and people purposefully connecting to each other is networking at its best.
Most of these tips are rooted in plain old common sense, but can be easy to lose sight of in the rush to garner leads, especially in an age where potential contacts seem to be popping up everywhere. Even though the landscape is changing, the rules governing how people react to one another remain the same. As our good friend Dale Carnegie said,
“You can close more business in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get people interested in you.”
Vision Offices Executive Suites can help you grow your business and take your company to the next level. Schedule a tour today.