It is said that your net worth is directly related to your network. The more people you know, the more successful you are. My experience is that this is absolutely true.
I remember my time in the corporate world and I actively avoided networking opportunities, unless it related to something I was particularly interested in such as cricket, football or other sports events. The whole idea of networking and meeting strange people in strange surroundings simply terrified me. Eventually I guess I got used to it but I always had the misconception that networking meant making small talk with people you probably had no real interest in at all.
Being in business for yourself though brings home the stark reality that networking is not only necessary, it is vital to your success. After all, how can you expect to promote your business and create success if you are not prepared to get out there and talk to people about it and how you can benefit prospective clients?
Actually networking is far more than simply trying to push your product or service onto everyone you meet. In fact, it is quite the opposite. It’s really about accessing your contacts’ contacts. It’s about positioning yourself and meeting people who can introduce you to others who you may be of service to you, or you to them. Beyond that, my experience is that the very best networkers are those that simply aim to introduce people to each other like you would if you were hosting a party, just to provide people with the opportunity to create a discussion, perhaps with a view that they may help each other.
Everyone I know who has a successful business has had to step up to the mark and get networking. You simply do not exist in business without marketing yourself and talking to other people.
Once I got to understand that my job was not to push my services but simply to facilitate people meeting people, I found that people started introducing me to people I wanted to meet. Starting from a position of serving others, my networking results improved.
There are many networking organisations and opportunities. My marketing coach advised “just get in the game” and this is what I found myself doing, networking anywhere and everywhere I could. It wasn’t long before I was able to simply approach people I didn’t know and say “hi” without worrying that they wouldn’t want to talk to me. In fact, they were often in the same position as me, wondering how to approach people and start a conversation so they were delighted to have someone come and up to them and start the process off.
So my Success Tips for effective networking are these:
Get in the game – Just do it. Network wherever you can.
Be of service – Act like a host not a guest waiting for someone else to introduce you.
Prepare – Work on your “elevator pitch” so that you confidently talk about your business concisely. Get clear about your Unique Selling Points and why people can refer you with confidence.
Be an active listener – Listen to the other person first and look for the opportunities to connect them with people they want to meet.
Set targets – Go to an event with a view to speaking to a certain amount of people. You cannot predict the result of making 3 new good contacts but you can create the result of talking to 10 new people.
Follow up – Always follow up. When you meet someone, call them and arrange a coffee some other time to continue the discussion further. You are highly unlikely to do business at the event so aim to call afterwards and arrange to meet.
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