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?
Back when I was building up my business, I had a part-time job working in a Chiropractic/Acupuncturist’s office. When people would inquire if their certain ailment could be dealt with using acupuncture, he told me to always tell them yes. At the time, I just thought, “Wow, that is a bold move. What if you don’t know? Then what are you going to do?” But honestly, his advice has gotten me very far in my business.
The answer is always yes – then you figure out how to do it.
What I have come to learn is not only did he get new clients in the door (smart), but he also furthered his own education at the same time. He pushed the envelope of his knowledge every day. He loved what he did and he wanted to share it with the world, as well as help people. So if they called asking if acupuncture could help with their situation, he always said yes – and then he figured out how to make it happen.
That is what entrepreneurialism is all about. The answer is always yes, even if you don’t know how, and then you find a way to do it. So what if you do not know how to do something right now. You will learn. You will figure it out, and then you will know for next time. You may even discover a new offering you did not think of before. This my friends is called INNOVATION, and a lot of products we use today are because someone said yes – and then figured it out.
So let’s think about some of the things that will help with figuring out a way to say YES.
Are you using all the methods of technology possible to make this task happen? My husband and I have had an IT business for the last 18 years, and we have definitely seen technology evolve. For example, when we first started out he physically had to be on location at all times to deal with the problem. Now there is software he uses to remote in to your machine and take care of it. Faster for the locals, yes, but now he can help people virtually anywhere in the world. My point is to look for various software applications or programs that may help you accomplish what your clients are asking you to do for them.
Tapping In To Your Network
Sometimes, it does indeed take a village. Maybe what you are trying to do entails some knowledge that is not your specialty. But you know who can help you with that piece. So reach out to them! Every entrepreneur should have a network of professionals surrounding them. If you are a smart entrepreneur, you are constantly networking to get the word out, but you should also be meeting other people that can potentially help you someday. So comb through your list of contacts and see if there is someone who can help you and then brainstorm a way to package it!
Maybe you plain just don’t know how to do it and no one else does either. Fine. Then find a class or webinar and learn it yourself. There is a webinar for everything these days. Further your education by mastering a new skill. I will use my husband as an example again. When he is setting up WordPress websites for people, we are constantly being asked if their site can do a particular task. And guess what – there usually is a plugin already out there that will handle the job. And if there isn’t, we will learn how to make it ourselves. Because that is what you do to get the job done. And in the end, you just furthered your knowledge as well as made your client happy – just like my chiropractic friend. That is a win win in my opinion.
Necessity is the mother of all invention. A wise saying, but that is why we have entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs are the ones that continuously come up with products or services that will fill the needs of their clients or customers. This should be you. What is the last thing someone asked you for and you told them no? I realize there may be very specific circumstances where you cannot say yes, but those are becoming less frequent. The world is evolving and technology is helping. So I challenge you to make a mindset shift and start saying YES instead of no. That yes could be the next stream of income you never knew you had.
So tell me, when have you recently said no? What were the circumstances? Post in the comments and let’s all help figure out a way to say YES!