I was recently approached by several people about coming to speak at their event about networking. It is very common this time of year to re-focus your efforts on networking and analyzing where you should be spending your time to grow your business. Rather than tell it like it is to a small group, I am choosing to lay it all down and put it out there – the COLD, HARD, UGLY TRUTH about networking.
- Everyone’s process is a bit different. Most people shy away from networking because they think this means going to some boring mixer, drinking your glass of wine, passing out business cards, all while collecting some for yourself. Ugh. This IS NOT networking. This is wasting time. Networking does not just happen in meet and greets. Networking DOES NOT have to happen in a certain way. It can be anywhere. I network just about in every situation I am in. The grocery store, the school pick up line when I am getting my kids, chatting with other Moms, talking with the neighbors, all my friends on social media, you name it. Technology certainly has opened some doors for us to keep communicating. The point is – choose strategies that appeal to YOU. Maybe it is face to face events, or a lively LinkedIn Group, or simply making an amazing blog and staying in touch with your followers that comment. The point is – you will shine if you are having fun. People will be drawn to you, and that is really what you are after.
- It’s not all about you. It’s about building lasting relationships. This takes time. I once had a job many moons ago where I was required to return with at least five business cards from people I had “connected” with at an event. The proverbial “get in, get out” method, or as some may call speed networking. This will get you no where. You cannot expect to get serious leads EVERY time you go out. Networking takes time and patience. You have to go into it with the mindset of building relationships. Start conversations with questions. This takes the spotlight off of you in the beginning and allows you to learn something about them in the process. People love to talk about themselves. Then you turn your focus on “what can I do for you” by doing the following:
Share who you know. This means everyone you have ever met. It is as simple as that. During your chatting, really listen to what the people are doing, involved in, trying to accomplish and think about if there is anyone in your circle of influence or database of people that you think they should meet. People will remember you for making the connection.
Share what you know. This means your life experiences, your observations, what you just read on Facebook, tips from email newsletters you subscribe to, etc. Share the knowledge that you think will help them in their agenda.
Share how you feel. Sharing your compassion will always bring you the greatest rewards. Show concern, show empathy. It will not only help you with your bottom line, but also knowing that you are following your heart and your integrity.
- You MUST keep in touch. Otherwise, this networking thing is a complete waste of time. This is also the number one thing most people will not do. They make quality connections, work on building relationships – and then….nothing. Work gets busy, life gets busy, or they simply get lazy. Such a shame. Create a system for yourself and stick to it. I like to use Trello to give myself a to-do list, where I include time in my schedule for a keep in touch strategy. Regardless of how you remind yourself, you have to follow through.
Networking in some form is a must. On the bright side, it can be in many forms. Just stick with what works for you, make sure it’s not all about you, and you will do just fine. Approach every event/encounter with an open mind, making new business contact, and maybe even a friend. You never know who knows who, who they can lead you to, and what can come of that new face from across the room. Those kids that invented the Kevin Bacon game were on to something. Six degrees is not very far. Good advice to take with you to every networking opportunity in the future.
What is your favorite networking strategy? What works best for you?