I can’t say that I’m a networking expert. In fact I actually dislike networking. It drains my energy and I find it exhausting. But, a client recently said to me ‘You either network or you don’t work.’ I agree. Whether you network online or offline, it is an essential part of your business success. In this post I share 6 Things I’ve Learned About Networking in the past 5 years.
6 Key Factors for Successful Networking
You need to work on your self-intro
I used to go to networking events totally unprepared. I had no clue what I would answer when people asked me the dreaded ‘What do you do?’ question. So what would you say when someone asks you? And don’t tell me ‘I’m a coach’ or ‘I’m an accountant’. That’s just begging for an ‘Ah’ answer and then the other person will tell you all about what he’s doing You need to prepare your elevator pitch, explain what you do and who you’re helping – in an interesting way. If you need help creating a jaw-dropping self-intro check out this resource from my colleague Samantha Harley. She’s the best!
You need to listen
Networking is not about you! Yes, in the end the main goal is to get new business. But business is based on trust. So if you go to these events and all you do is talk about yourself and how great you are, no one will be interested. We all love to be listened to, it’s part of being human. As an introvert listening comes natural to me. Introverts are better listeners than speakers. So when Rudolf Klaus, the king of Effective Networking, told me that I didn’t have to be a small talk guru, that I just needed to be a good listener, I was so relieved. Try it out! It’s liberating
You need to be personal
You meet all these people for the very first time in your life, and let’s be honest, many of them you’ll probably never meet again. But people do business with people. So if you’re networking and only talking business, you might come over as very professional, but also as very sterile and it will be much harder for people to bond with you. If I get a new client from a networking event, one that has never read any of my blog posts, has never received my newsletter, it’s because we’ve established this special bond during our first meeting. I might have shared my story, discovered a common hobby or otherwise felt like we were a good fit based on our conversation that wasn’t strictly business related.
You can use online tools
If we’re connected online you know that I’m very active there. I do a lot of networking online – and yes it works. But, in Switzerland where I live, shaking hands and exchanging business cards is still an important part of business – one I have neglected in the first years. Now I use a combination of both – online tools and physical networking events.
You need to follow up
Make it a habit to follow up with people you meet offline and invite them to connect on LinkedIn. That’s something I’ve always done, and maybe you’re doing that too. But now I’ll ask you to take it a step further and first of all customize the invitation you send on LinkedIn, mentioning that you’ve just met at xyz networking event and then set a reminder to follow up again 1 week from then. You can send them a resource, follow up on a discussion you had or introduce them to one of your connections that you think might be a good fit. Be helpful, not salesy!
You need to be consistent
Networking is marketing. And you need to market your business all the time, even when things are going well. What if you loose that one big client? Book your networking events into your schedule and make a commitment, just like you commit to publish x number of blog posts per month.
I recommend you listen to my interview with Rudolf Klaus in which we talked more about Effective Networking.