In today’s world of business, a common quote heard is “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” This paradigm of networking and developing an intertwined support system has accumulated an increased importance in the workplace environment. Connections and networks are our ability to develop a support system that is able to back our position thanks to the trust we have built with them. Beyond the support we receive from our network, we find that the more well-built relationships we have, the easier it is to ask for referrals, advice, help, and guidance in times of uncertainty. Then how, in the busy and impersonal environment we live in, do we build trustworthy and strong connections within and outside of our network. I will now show you, based off my experience, the keys to building a strong network:
- Don’t go pitching yourself — As tempting as it may seem, networking events are not designed for you to around simply pitching your business to everyone that will listen. It’s about building sustainable and lasting relationships. The idea of these events is to get the conversation started rather than close the sale in the first 2 minutes. Remember, prospects are more likely to work, and partner, with those they feel most comfortable with. If someone does, however, ask you about your service or product, be prepared with a short and easy to understand description of your company. Before the start of the event, compile a list of recent accomplishments that you can easily pull into the conversation.
- Avoid the urge to arrive late — Arriving late is never a good habit to form in any situation, especially in networking events. It is easy for those who arrive early to see the benefits of their action. People are arriving and not yet clumped into hard to enter groups, people are much more willing to talk on an approach basis, and the general environment is calmer and quieter allowing for easier conversation.
- Ask questions — Don’t wait in the corner for people to approach you. Be proactive and walk up to the interesting individuals in the room and ask questions like “May I join you?” or “What brings you to this event?” These questions will open the door for conversation and relationship building. In this situation, once the question has been asked, listen. Listening throughout a conversation will increase your credibility and your ability to form solid relationships early.
- Be passionate — During conversation, people look to see your passion for your product or service. Make it known and evident that you love what you’re doing and are extremely passionate about whatever it is that drives you. What you may find is talking about your passions WITH a passion is contagious and others will be much more likely to follow you.
- Smile — It seems obvious but too often have I found conversations turning south after letting negative emotions into the conversation. Keeping a smile on your face puts your nerves to ease and allows the conversation to flow smoothly and without emotional interruption. Check your negativity at the door or at least before your next conversation.
- Don’t take over the conversation — Many times I find that people who dislike networking will overcompensate by controlling the conversation by talking. Remember that the best networkers are experts at making others feel special by listening and chiming in with an additional question here and there. Be sure to listen to people, look them in the eye, repeat their name, give them easy topics to talk about, and be a conversationalist, not a talker.
- FOLLOW UP — Following up is one of the most important steps/recommendations of all of these because it allows the conversation to continue and the relationship to grow. After a great conversation, ask to continue at a later date. Find what medium of communication is preferred – phone, email, linkedin, text – and actually use that medium to follow up. The typical time frame is generally within 48 hours to show your interest and availability. Be sure to reference a talking point in the conversation so the contact remembers you.
With these 7 tips in mind, you can have the ability to become a great networker. Be confident in yourself and your business. Remember that it’s not quantity when it comes to a network, it’s quality. Build a strong and smart network of friends, family, and experts to back you and help you on your journey.