In the first two parts of this series, we talked about what business networking is and how it can help your business grow along with the social capital that networking yields and its dependence on developing authentic relationships.
It’s important to focus on the true purpose of business networking – building a circle of good people around you. In a survey conducted by LinkedIn, 76% of the respondents believe knowing the right people and having the right connections is key to getting ahead in life.
Networking involves meeting people who share an interest, hobby, or industry and exchanging ideas or information. The intangible gains of expanding your knowledge can significantly impact your success as well as the tangible gains from sales and referrals, increased efficiency, or even that next great business idea with exponential returns.
At the heart of networking, however, is relationship-building, not selling. Your network is made up of every person you interact with, both personally and professionally. To build and maintain a valuable network, you need to intentionally seek opportunities to grow your circle.
“When you surround yourself with positivity, you’re more likely to adopt empowering beliefs and see life as happening for you instead of to you.” (Team Tony). Consider these tips for making the most of your networking efforts:
- Prepare and Be Ready for Networking Opportunities Networking itself can happen anywhere, not just in a professional setting, and as such, you should be prepared for it when it does. Have a sentence or two in mind that will allow you to answer the question “what do you do” easily and succinctly. This is your elevator pitch. When attending an event, be prepared not only with your elevator pitch, but also with a clear understanding of the type of event you are going to, who will likely be attending, and what your goal is for the event.
- Look for the Right People and Tell Your Story Take the time to identify your goals for your business in addition to setting a specific goal for an event and seek out people that may be beneficial. More importantly, don’t keep your story to yourself. Let people know where you want to take your business and what you think you need to get there. You never when someone will be able to make a connection for you, but those connections can’t be made if no one knows what you are looking for or what you want to accomplish.
- Be Proactive in Building and Maintaining Your Network You can’t predict when a need might arise, so having an established network gives you an avenue to turn to when it does. But you want to intentionally maintain those relationships. If you don’t then reach out to someone you haven’t talked to in years, you risk appearing desperate and self-serving. They will know you only want something and be less likely to help you. It is better to actively build your network before you need it. Use the internet and online platforms to create, cultivate, and communicate with your contacts regularly.
- Focus on What You Can Learn, Not What You Can Get The greatest opportunities come from reciprocal relationships where both people are genuinely interested in helping each other. Focus on what you can learn from your contacts and what connections you can make for them. Understand that not everyone can bolster your bottom line, but they all have the potential to teach you something. Stay intent on their value and don’t underestimate the power of doing small favors for others. If you are willing to support your friends and professional networks, they will be more likely to do the same for you.
- Be a Good Listener and Listen More Than You Speak To be a connector, you need to know what your contacts do and what they need. This requires actively listening to them in conversation. Make sure you don’t dominate the conversation or miss what they tell you because you are too concerned with what to say next. Your goal should simply be to create a positive interaction. Focus on their words so you can understand what their needs are, the services they provide, and how they may be able to help someone else in your network.
- Follow Up and Show Your Gratitude Interactions do not end when the conversation ends. It’s important to follow up and think about the long-term development of each relationship, whether you met in person or online. Make a point of thanking them for their time and eventually, hopefully for their referral. You can continue to nurture the relationship by staying in contact but be respectful of their time and only send a message when you can add value.
TIPS FOR MAINTAINING YOUR NETWORK
Nurturing your relationships over time requires effort and intentional strategies. Stay in contact and schedule a time to get back together. Send messages online but respect their time and only send a message when you can add value. Here are a few additional tips:
- Don’t Burn Bridges – You never know when your paths may cross again or who is in your contacts’ networks. It’s a big world, but in certain niches, it can also be a very small world.
- Be Consistently Meaningful – Valuable networking, done productively, requires ongoing effort and active engagement. As such, focus on doing what you can to bring value to your connections and your interactions.
- Stay Connected on Social Media – Do not underestimate the power of social media. At the very least, it keeps a line of access open. It is also the most efficient way to reach out and keep your connections active.
PLACES TO NETWORK
You are surrounded by opportunities to grow your network if you seek the opportunities out. There is no better way to connect with people than a shared interest, but here are some places to consider for growing your network:
- Join relevant clubs, groups, professional organizations
- Attend networking events
- Get involved in mentorship programs
- Volunteer, get involved with a charity or serve on a Board
- Try a new hobby or activity that leads you to new people
What additional tips or ideas do you have?
“How to Surround Yourself with Good People: 5 Ways to Let Go of the Relationships That Are Holding You Back,” posted by Team Tony, Robbins Research International Inc., www.tonyrobbins.com, www.tonyrobbins.com/stories/business-mastery/surround-yourself-with-quality-people/
“LinkedIn Opportunity Index 2020: How people around the world feel about the opportunity,” LinkedIn, economicgraph.linkedin.com/content/dam/me/business/en-us/talent-solutions/emerging-jobs-report/pdf/LinkedIn-Opportunity-Index-2020-Global-White-paper.pdf