Why would you need to network? To build your clientele, to create more connections in your industry, to attain investors, to find possible partners, to gain more insight of your area, to learn about what’s up and coming, to stay ahead of technological advancements, and to expand your brand or name that would ultimately widen your possibilities for growth. Easy enough to understand. Most of us know the why and even see the significance of networking, but many are afraid to do it. Why? For some, they don’t know where to start. For most, they don’t know how to do it.
Where to go (Basic Networking)
When it comes to finding the right places to network the answer is obvious. Go where the people are. This could be at malls, sporting events, rotary clubs, large discount stores, gyms or even go door to door. You can join a business networking group like BNI, Chamber of Commerce, Kiwanis or your local Merchant Association. You can be apart of a club like Toastmasters, Parent Teacher Association, or Lions International. The most common and “comfortable” place to go for networking nowadays is on the internet, using one of the many social media platforms including LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. And lets not forget that the strongest networking strategy is through referrals from a friend, former client, or colleague.
These are all great places to go to network but just knowing where to go won’t get rid of the elephant in the room. We need to know what to do when we get there. We want to know how to get the information and build the connections that we need. We are looking for the answers to effective networking and not just wasting our time mingling with no results to show for it.
How to do it (Advanced Networking)
1. Exhibit Powerful Body Language
When communicating with anybody in person, it can be very beneficial for you to give off the impression that you are confident and competent. You don’t have to lie or mislead anyone with slick talk. Just Walk with confidence. Keep your head up and your back straight to show that you are alert and aware of what is going on. Open up your stride as you walk to display a sense of you knowing exactly where it is you are headed. Give firm hand shakes and look people in their eyes while holding a smile, as not to give off a hostile vibe. People want to feel that they are talking to a leader, not a desperate puppy looking for a home. You can be scared, you can be nervous, and your hands can be sweaty, but keep your eyes up and chest out because you have a role to play.
2. Write Compelling Copy
This is for emailing, texting, and any form of internet messaging. The way you write things is your online body language. The best way to grab somebody’s attention through email or through text is by giving a warm greeting, getting straight to your point, throwing in a valuable nugget or two, and getting out of there as quickly as possible. There are going to be instances where you will have to send a lengthy message. In those cases, be sure that you always stick to the point and keep the message meaty and be sure that most of it is essential information that they actually need to read.
3. Provide Evidence of Your Success
You never want to brag, but if somebody asks you questions about what you have done that is significant or want to know why they should give you the light of day, you better have some impressive stats. There are very specific moments when you should roll out your accomplishments and it’s not in the greeting. It’s when they ask you for your credentials. It may be direct or indirect. Either way, have a list prepared for you to present to somebody just in case they ask you, or if they want you to send them more information about what you have done thus far. You have to be your biggest cheerleader when it’s time to show off what you’ve accomplished.
4. Become an Expert or the Best in Your Field
Networking becomes increasingly easier the more skilled you are at what you do. If you’re trying to sell a product, you better know that product better than anybody on the planet. If you’re a personal trainer, you want to show how many competitions you’ve won, what sports you’ve played at a high level, or how many clients lives you have changed. If you’re a business owner, you want to be able to show how you are leading the charge in your industry in some form or fashion. You might be generating the most revenue or you might have the best product on the market. Maybe you’re in pest control and nobody knows more about dealing with roaches than you. Being known as the go-to person in any field and being able to openly display that will make you a networking magnet.
5. Give Value First
I tell soon-to-be graduates this all the time. When you go to a job fair, don’t just tell them your name and how you would like to possibly work for them. Ask them about the company’s goals, what positions they are looking to fill, and what type of person are they looking to hire. Then give them the run down on how you could help them improve their business. It’s as simple as that. Everybody is networking for themselves. They are looking to acquire value from other people. If you go into any line of communication looking to provide value to the other party first, then you will have “leverage” in the relationship, like my man Gary Vee always says. Even if you’re at a party and you see a really hot girl you want to dance with, you know you’re not the only person trying to dance with her, so you have to make yourself stand out. Say something that nobody would think to say. Think about what unique accessory she may have on. Is her hair different? Do her shoes match her earrings? Maybe she reminds you of a 1970’s movie star. These are powerful pieces of information that can make her feel special, which means you just raised her value.
6. Ask Good Questions
The best communicator is not the person who has the best things to say. They are typically the person who speaks the least because they can get the other person to do the talking. You do this by asking compelling and thought provoking questions. You’ll want to keep the yes or no questions to a minimum, since there isn’t much room for them to elaborate after that. Nobody wants to feel like a jabber jaw, so if you ask questions that force them to think and get them to explain things that are important to them, then they will feel like they are doing you a favor by letting you in on their exclusive information. This is how you build powerful relationships with people who talk too much.
7. Don’t Quit (Bonus)
This is the most obvious and least practiced strategy. Don’t quit trying to build those powerful connections, even with the people who are trying to brush you off. If they have influence or have exactly what you need, be sure to provide value to them or more of whatever it is they are looking for until you get your foot in the door. Not everybody is going to respond to you the first time, and sometimes people are just distracted during the first interaction. Don’t take anything personal and remember that you’re not the only person with a life filled with obligations and stress. The more people you talk to, the greater your chances of finding the person you need are.
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Mel Jones the BEAST