Business networking has been a key aspect of many an entrepreneur’s arsenal since it’s inception hundreds of years ago. Email came, but networking survived. Social media came, but networking survived. With an apparent invincibility, it’s here for the long term – whether you like it or not. The trouble is that many people lack confidence in networking – they say, ‘I just don’t like it’ or, ‘i’m an introvert’. The truth is, that while that may be true, it’s simply a skill – and a very powerful one too. Keeping in mind that, competence breeds confidence, it’s time we get this business networking thing nailed down once and for all.
1. Begin With the End in Mind
As the great Stephen Covey stated in his book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, ‘begin with the end in mind’.
Business networking leads to unique kinds of relationships. It’s just not the same as relationships you may have with friends or family. See, those kinds of relationships are the result of experiences, tradeoffs and sticking together through thick and thin. You’re on a journey together and you’re in it for the feeling.
When we consider networking we need to understand that it’s more about synergy. How can we work together to help one another? How can you best use your time to give to the right people who may be able to give back to you in the future?
A Jedi of the networking environment knows what he or she wants. That’s vitally important. Bringing your future goal into the front of your mind enables you to activate those spidey senses and talk to the right people now, that will open up more and more doors for you in the future.
Start off the journey without a destination in mind and you leave yourself in the hands of fate – a wish washy excuse for the unprepared.
2. Always Be Prepared
Okay, we’re not joining the boy scouts but to get the most out of your networking experience it’s important to be prepared. If you’re heading to a specific event then plan your day out. Which talks or presentations are going to have attendees that you want to interact with? If you’re heading to your first BNI chapter meeting then take a look on the chapter website and learn a little about your new networking buddies. There will probably be specific people that work in complimentary industries. Check out their website, their social media and their business and you’ll be well set to strike up a beneficial conversion and a solid foundation for a long lasting networking relationship.
3. Golden Tip - Use Linkedin's 'Nearby' Feature
Here’s a fantastic tip that you can only benefit from being aware of. LinkedIn have a setting that you can enable that lets you become discoverable in your local environment – it’s called ‘Find Nearby‘.
When you enable the Find Nearby feature, you’ll unlock some cool networking super powers. You’ll be able to jump on LinkedIn and see everyone who has enabled the feature on their app. It will link you up with anyone who’s in your bluetooth range. This is fantastic for conferences and business events alike.
4. Be Patient, Build Quality Relationships
Don’t zoom off around the room like a fly looking for a window. Be present and in the moment. Give people your time. Listen to them and share ideas. It takes work and effort to learn and share with others and ensuring your new acquaintance leaves your interaction with a clear understanding of what you do is a cornerstone of successful networking.
5. Preserve Your Credibility
If you make a promise to someone – stick to it. Be that person who can be relied upon to follow through with what they have committed to. This kind of networking relationship leads to a strong connection that puts you at the top of the list when there’s an opportunity for you to be recommended.
6. Positive Mental Attitude
Sharing a positive mindset with those around you results in a delightful environment where sharing and opportunity is welcome. If you come out of the traps with the glass half empty then you risk alienating others – that’s not the goal here.
7. Know Exactly What You Want
You may only get a few minutes to talk to each person at your networking meeting. That means you need to be very specific and accurate in what you’re saying. It would be incredibly disheartening for someone to pass you a referral that is no good because you did not get the message across well enough as to what kind of client you’re looking for.
You should be able to clearly state the type of person who you serve in your business and be able to get that message across to the other party with absolute ease.
Pay attention. It may seem a simple task but in the whirlwind of a networking meet up it is easy to get lost in the rush. If your memory is not an ally then ensure you have a notepad on hand. Jot down specific details that can help you help others. Make sure that you listen to the nuances that are being communicated to you both verbally and subconsciously.
When you meet up the next time, you can then be specific about what you talk about. Showing the other person that you listened and do care enables the growth of trust, and that’s one of the key foundations of successful business networking.