Networking is without a doubt one of the most powerful exercises to get good at for an increased quality of life. My own success as an entrepreneur of over 15 years is a testament to that.
The numbers agree. In a global survey, 35% of LinkedIn users said that a casual conversation on LinkedIn Messaging led to a new opportunity such as business deals. Additionally, up to 80% of jobs are filled through networking.
Though the idea of networking can conjure feelings of intimidation for some, it’s important to remember that networking is simple and it’s for everyone.
Let’s explore how you can master the art of networking to unlock success like a boss.
Know Your Intentions
Being intentional about networking to help guide you to the people and results you’d like to see.
Before attending a networking event, or reaching out to people online, ask yourself a few questions;
- Who do I want to meet? Make a mental or written list of the type of people you’d like to meet. What are their jobs? What kind of companies do they run? Think about what is it that you need help with and who would be most appropriate to provide that help to you.
- How often will I commit to networking? To excel, three networking events a month is sufficient. Strive to know in advance at least the next three events you’ll be attending.
- Where will I network? The truth is, you can network anywhere; through social media, in an elevator, on the train, at networking events in person or online, at parties, whilst out shopping etc. However, it’s a great idea to have a look at industry-specific seminars or networking events and commit to attending them. You can find these online or, ask your network!
- What do I have to offer? Do I have expert knowledge of a particular industry? Is it my personality or who I know? Is my life experience particularly inspiring? If you can identify exactly why you add value, you’ll communicate that and be more successful at general networking.
- Have I prepared my elevator pitch? This doesn’t have to take long to prepare, but you should practice your pitch until your delivery is flawless. This ensures you are putting your best foot forward.
- What problems can I solve? Make a list of the problems you can solve and reflect on this often so that you can bring more value to the relationships you build.
Present Yourself Well
Time is precious. To avoid wasting your own and others’ time (plus make a good first impression), practice an elevator pitch that tells people who you are, what you do and what makes your approach unique. This should be a maximum of one minute.
Make time to sharpen your appearance in a way that’s authentic to you. For some, that’s getting clothes tailored, whilst for others it’s getting a manicure and eyebrow wax. What people see is part of your personal brand, and when you look your best you are automatically more confident. If in doubt about a dress code, overdress. You’ll be more memorable that way.
A misconception about networking is that it’s all about what you can take from others. This isn’t true. Having an attitude of generosity will enrich your networking experience more than you can imagine.
Express generosity by actively listening when people are telling you about themselves. Ask powerful questions such as ‘Tell me about the problems in your industry?’ or ‘What do you need to take your business to the next level’ and again, truly listen to the response.
Also, be quick to share any suitable opportunities with your network when they arise. People will remember your generosity, and it will come back to benefit you.
If you want to have a conversation with someone, try inviting them to a prestigious rooftop or hotel bar for a cup of tea or coffee. You’re much more likely to get a yes, and that small gesture won’t cost you much.
If you want to meet people of a certain caliber, attend the same events that they do. This could include food and drink tastings, sports events and auctions. You should also look into joining a private members’ club. Once you’re in these spaces, get chatting.
Another way to be a smart networker is by doing it online. By engaging with social media and online events, you are able to leverage instant global reach, high levels of convenience and lots of flexibility.
Every few months, take stock of which networking opportunities were the most impactful in terms of meeting the right people for you. Use this analysis to guide your future networking plans.
Networking doesn’t begin until the follow-up. Send a text, email or message within 24 hours of making a connection to start nurturing the relationship immediately. Continue to check in with connections every few months as well.
The points discussed above are just words on a screen. You must continually take action to see any real changes in your business or career. The good news is, as you employ these strategies, you’ll quickly improve your networking skills and in time, you’ll start to see the power in the relationships you’ve taken the effort to build.