By Graham Acreman
It’s been said that networking is the number one unwritten (until now) rule of success in business.
Networking can have a bigger impacting on your business than marketing, education, or anything else you do. If done right, it can be a short cut to success.
Most people are quite willing to help you if they know what they do.
Earlier in the year I wrote an article, 10 Powerful Business Tips for Owners and Entrepreneurs and “Network” was #8 on the list. Today, we’re going to dig a little deeper on this item.
Networking can provide many benefits to your business. It provides a forum to:
- Learn new ideas
- Raise your profile
- Solve problems
- Increase confidence
- Build connections
- Identify new business opportunities.
The world is a big place and believe it or not, there are many people who would love to help you – if they knew you and if they knew what your business offered.
Effective networking is not about pushing out business cards to as many people as possible.
It’s about meeting people, staying in touch, and helping them as much as possible.
Jarrod Goldsmith, Founder of eSAX Virtual Networking lives, breathes, eats, and sleeps, all things, “Networking”. Jarrod always has a lot on the go including a flourishing YouTube channel with +600 videos all geared towards networking. You should check it out here.
I love Jarrod’s story. In 2011 as a member of a saxophone ensemble (Sax Appeal Ottawa), he started networking as a means of getting work for the band. Like many others, he was very shy in the beginning. I’ve seen Jarrod in action and you’d never know it now.
Jarrod offers the following tips for networking success:
- Show up early and offer to help out the organizers
- If your event is online showing up early gives you the opportunity to test your camera and mic
- Focus on being helpful to others rather than acting like a walking business card
- Ask questions about people’s personal life – “What’s your passion” or, “What are you doing on the weekend?”
- Actively listen and ask more questions – help make them comfortable.
- Try to be helpful to others; become known as a resource. If you can connect a contact to someone who can help them they’ll be thankful and remember you.
Jarrod advises that your focus should be on building personal relationships and not thinking about sales.
“People don’t like to be sold”, Jarrod says. He adds, “They’re not going to hire you on the spot – they’re going to do their due diligence.”
Further, he says that it takes time. If you see people once it won’t usually provide an immediate benefit but as you begin to interact with them more often they’re more likely to engage. Nurturing is key.
Jarrod’s advice is supported by Salesforce.com which advises that it takes 6-8 marketing touches to generate a sales lead. It doesn’t matter if these marketing touches are in person, online or through a directed email or social media campaign. You should always by nurturing those around you and you can do so by being an informative, helpful resource.
For those that cringe at the thought of attending a networking event, keep in mind that the ability to get comfortable takes time and practice.
People who know me today will know I’m comfortable talking to anyone but, it wasn’t always like that. I can vividly remember going to my first networking event. I was totally outside my comfort zone and I literally wanted to hide behind the curtains of the venue.
Looking back, there was two things that helped me get comfortable over time: Practice, and perhaps more importantly, coming to the realization that effective networking was critical for my business success.
If I wanted success then I needed to network and if I wanted to be good at it then I needed to practice.
Here are a few more suggestions to help you get more comfortable:
- Attend lots of events. Even if you do nothing else, you’ll start to see familiar faces and they in turn will see you. See and be seen.
- Ensure that you are able to talk about what you do in one or two sentences. The intent is to start building rapport rather than educating people on all the specifics of what you do. That part will come later.
- Say, “Hello” and ask people about themselves. There’s no rocket science involved – it’s just a conversation. Be sure to show interest and sincerity.
- Look for someone who is standing by themselves – they would probably be thrilled if you walked up and said, “Hello”.
- How are you?
- Are you enjoying the event?
- Tell me about what you do.
- Have a pen handy so that you can take notes. Seriously. Mark them down on the business card of the person you’ve just met so that you don’t forget.
- After the event, follow up. Send an email, connect with them online and re-iterate that it was nice to meet them.
As you build your network you want to continue to stay in touch. This can be done at events both online and in person, through social media, email, phone calls, - you name it.
Focus on being a helpful resource and as your relationships flourish you’ll want to casually help people understand how they can help you. What sort of problems does your business solve or what benefit does it provide? Again, most people want to be helpful but if they don’t have a crystal clear idea how they can help then it’s unlikely to happen.
Effectively leveraging your network will help you build your business faster. People want to be helpful and they'll help you too if they know you and know how they can help.
Remember, comfort zones are a beautiful place, but nothing grows there.
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