7 Simple Ways to Network Effectively
It has been said that networking is a necessary evil in business. It’s true. Regardless if you’re a people person or at the introverted end of the extraversion-introversion continuum, having the right connections can open up the doors of opportunities that may not be available otherwise. Gaining new clients, scoring a new job, getting referrals – those are made easier by building relationships with relevant people in the industry.
The fruits of networking can sometimes materialise in surprising and unpredictable ways. Still, you have to be strategic about networking. Casting a wide net to random connections may yield sub-par leads that could end up wasting a lot of your time and effort. To save you the hassle of figuring out the perfect networking strategy, here are seven simple but effective ways to build quality connections.
Get yourself out there
Attending events is unavoidable, but make sure you target relevant ones. You can join professional organisations in your industry to narrow down social commitments and make these conferences and seminars productive for your business. Participating in industry-related functions will broaden your but still remain within your target market. There are also co-working spaces popping up in the city where you can meet people in the same industry. It’s the perfect setting for exchanging ideas and opening up opportunities for future collaborations.
For the less assertive networkers, it helps to arrive early at these events. Arrive late and the attendees will have already grouped themselves accordingly, gotten through the small talk, and got comfortable in the venue. This situation will make it harder to make your approach. Another tactic, according to president and CEO of 3Pillar Global David DeWolf, is to build relationships prior to the event. Getting the names of the participants and sending our private messages or emails prior to the event will give you the opening you need to approach and introduce yourself to them personally. Another helpful advice from him: bring someone with you. Having a colleague with you eliminates the awkwardness of having to stand there on your own, searching the crowd for the perfect connection, and mustering enough courage to walk up to them.
Connect on a personal level
Getting yourself out there does not only apply to formal social events. In fact, sometimes the more effective place to connect with someone is when you are outside the business environment. Coffee shops and airports can be the perfect venues to bond when you cross paths with a possible asset for your network. Or find out where industry players like to hang out to unwind. Maybe volunteer for a cause where you know like-minded people of your profession also frequent. Casual settings remove the stiffness of formality and allows you connect with them as individuals rather than as a professional looking for prospects.
Get yourself online
One you exchange business cards and other pertinent information, add them on your social networks to get yourselves connected. Just make sure your online presence also reflects a certain degree of professionalism, allowing them to get to know some aspects of your personality without the unnecessary personal disclosures. LinkedIn is perhaps the more appropriate platform for your professional connections, where you can join groups and discuss industry news freely. You can also get updates about job openings and upcoming events once you connect with relevant people.
Don’t just be a lurker, but don’t be an over-sharer either. Make sure you weigh in relevant industry trends and post updates to remain relevant and informative to your audience. This way, you highlight your expertise and awareness without directly tooting your own horn.
Digitally or personally, reach out to your connections. Ask them out for coffee, send an email, comment, like, share, or retweet. There are literally many ways you can connect with them, just try not to be annoying. Constantly sending promotional materials is a sure fire way to get blocked. Place yourself on the other person’s shoes and figure out the dos and don’ts of online etiquette.
For more tangible touchpoints, thoughtful gestures towards your connections can make a world of difference, and you don’t have to shell out a lot of money doing it. Something as simple as sending a bouquet of cheap flowers to congratulate them on a promotion, sending a thank-you note, or inviting them for a cup of coffee all count towards building relationships.
Practice quid pro quo
Networking is a two-way street and the initial stage of your relationship is, more often than not, going to be based on business. So unless your bond has been elevated into something deeper, the other person is going to expect something in return for a good turn. And even if they don’t expect the same kind of courtesy, the basic tenets of decency requires reciprocity. If you want something from them, then you have to be willing to give something back. Whether it’s another referral, a job well done, or even if it’s as simple as showing genuine interest. Listening is practically an art in today’s chronically distracted citizens.
Practice your pitch
Networking gets easier as you go along. However, when you’re just starting to build your network, you have to do some extra work. Practicing your pitch is essential especially if you’re not the type of personal who can just wing it. Know your strengths when it comes to communications. One strategy is to think of talking points to build that rapport with someone. Once you get their attention and establish an organic flow of conversation, then you can start talking shop and slowly introducing your expertise on the matter. Again, this takes practice.
Dare to ask
Unbeknownst to some, people have a need to be needed. This becomes particularly beneficial if the person actually likes you, which is why building relationships is crucial. Probably the easiest request to satisfy their need to be needed is to ask for some advice. Not only do they feel needed, you are also indirectly complimenting them for their expertise. And when it comes to asking for referrals and introductions, you never know if it will work until you ask. Getting turned down is not the worst thing in the world.
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