Networking is an essential skill for entrepreneurs to learn because it generates business.
The term networking can become over complicated. It is simply starting and nurturing relationships which is something that humans do throughout life.
It doesn’t have to be difficult. Practice, repetition and following the tips below will help you build rewarding professional relationships wherever you are, whether that’s at work, a seminar, a party or on a flight.
Define Your Objectives.
Who do you want to meet and why? How many networking events will you commit to attending? Where will you go to network? How will you measure your progress? What do I want to get help with?
Asking yourself these powerful questions is a great place to start. You can’t hit a goal without a target, so be strategic about your time and your intentions.
Be Mindful Of Your Personal Brand
First impressions really do count. Before attending a networking event, think about how you will introduce yourself. Do you have an elevator pitch of around 30 seconds? If not, write and practice one. Make sure you are dressed well and feel confident in your appearance (whatever that means to you). Your personal brand also follows you online, so be mindful of how you want to show up.
Find A Networking Partner
Networking can feel scary. Introverts should find someone to attend events with to take the edge off. This tip is also very good if you know that you need help staying accountable. Having a networking partner will mean you’re both more likely to show up.
Is anybody surprised that 75% of entrepreneurs have reported concerns for their mental health? Running a business is hard and can be a lonely road. This is not to say that you should treat networking as a free talking therapy, but be vulnerable about the problems in your industry or that you’re facing in business. Vulnerability builds deeper connections more quickly, and you never know if the person you’re talking to has the perfect solution to the issue that’s holding you back.
Take Advantage Of The Internet
LinkedIn is not just an online resume. It’s the most suited platform for building professional relationships, so make sure to interact with content, post your own content and send direct messages. Aside from LinkedIn, you can network on every other social media platform. Attending online workshops and being active in forums are other ways to meet people who share your interests.
Always Add Value
When you make a connection ask yourself two questions.
- How can I help this person?
- Who else in my network can help this person?
Openly sharing knowledge, contacts and opportunities to help others win will create a culture of generosity within the relationship. The other person will be more likely to help and introduce you to others when the time comes.
People tend to talk more than they listen. If you can learn to truly listen, you will gather so much information about people, the industries they are in and the professional problems they face. It is said that knowledge is power.
Networking doesn’t start until you follow up. Aim to send a text, email or direct message within 24 hours of meeting someone. Check in with them every 3 to 6 months to further nurture the relationship.
Review Your Progress
Six months after attending a networking event, review the relationships that were built. You might start to notice trends such as which types of events are the most beneficial to your networking goals. From this exercise, you can tailor your networking strategy if needed.
Take The Pressure Off
Building relationships is a skill that you have already been practicing for years, so try not to feel intimidated by the word networking or by trying to ‘do it right’. The more you network, the more confident you will get.
Networking is about establishing connections and creating a supportive community. Even if you don’t have a specific product or service to promote, your presence can still contribute to engaging conversations, the exchange of ideas, and potential collaborations.