Networking is the art of relationship building in the business world. We all know how important it is. An active approach to networking can help you connect with the right businesses and people. Being connected to these individuals—and their networks—can lead to positives, from mentorship/sponsorship opportunities and fruitful strategic business partnerships to fresh ideas and industry insights that may help you develop your own business strategies and get closer to attaining your professional goals.
Does this mean that showing up to a couple networking events a month and joining a few industry-related LinkedIn groups is going to lead to all the glowing benefits of networking?
This is where many of us don’t attain the results we’re looking for—we believe going through the motions is enough. It’s not. In fact, this approach may lead you to giving up on networking if you fail to develop quality business relationships despite putting in time and effort.
Shaking hands, exchanging business cards and social network profiles, even having a few engaging conversations may not be enough. So, in order to execute networking flawlessly and achieve the success you are after, you have to practice, learn from your mistakes, and eventually develop your own style of networking as you learn what works for you.
Ready to become a magnet for worthwhile contacts? Here are the tips that will set you up for real success in networking.
Define Your Networking Goals
What’s the first rule of goal achievement? Know what you are aiming for. The same applies to networking. Take the time to ask yourself, what do I want? Gina Bianchini, CEO of Mightybell, has put together an excellent list of the questions you should answer to help bring clarity to your goal. You can apply these questions when defining what you want out of your professional network, whether it’s a partnership, a support network, or help with a business project.
The more clearly you can define your goals, the more likely you will reach them. Failing to do this, you may miss important opportunities when you do meet the right people simply because you’re not actually sure what you are after.
When you meet other professionals and when someone sees your website or social media profiles, particularly LinkedIn, what impression do you cast? Are you a generic business person? Or, have you taken the time to clearly define your personal brand? Does this brand come across in everything you do, from the tone of your LinkedIn page to the topics you choose when in a conversation? Your values, objectives, perspectives, and accomplishments are all important in building an impression of yourself that will benefit your career or business.
As CEO of SmartTribes Institute, Christine Comaford says, “Networking is marketing. Marketing yourself, marketing your uniqueness, marketing what you stand for.”
Give the people you meet a clear, cohesive impression of who you are, whether you are a tech-savvy entrepreneur who values creativity and innovation or a committed businessperson who has led his/her team to achieve year-after-year growth. Ensure that your social media profiles and/or business website align with this same identity.
Personal branding will help the people you meet have a better idea of what you have to offer. If you come off as someone who is generic or who doesn’t stand out from the other 43 people in the room—why would you be worth remembering? What makes you unique?
Invest in the People You Connect With
Britt Morgan-Saks, the head of Artist Services for Spotify, recommends putting your all into your business relationships. An expert networker herself, she’s found that giving more is where she gets the most out of her networks. “A truly connected person cares about bringing value to those around them.”
This means, when you are building your connections, pay attention to how you can help other professionals that you meet. Who can you connect them to in order to help their careers or business opportunities? What could you do to help them accomplish a goal?
By doing this, you aren’t just building trust; you’re demonstrating your worth, your value —that you are someone who your contacts want to be connected to.
Networking is about cultivating relationships, which means you have to continually nurture them. When you make a connection, follow-up with a friendly email, private message via LinkedIn or text, or even a call every now and then—even if you don’t need anything from them as of the moment.
To help you keep track of your network, make a schedule. Determine how much time a week you want to spend on networking, rate your contacts in order of importance, and map out how often you want to reach out with a thoughtful email, a helpful social media share, or to arrange for a casual meeting over coffee/tea.
Public speaker and network marketer Paula Pritchard points out that one of the biggest obstacles for women in business when it comes to networking is confidence. If you aren’t confident, you aren’t going to put yourself out there to meet the individuals that can help move your career forward.
In order to overcome her lack of confidence, and to transition from making $15,000 a year as a teacher to earning a six figure income as a network marketer, she visualised herself as a successful person. Not just any successful person, but the President of Chase Manhattan Bank! By focusing on the details of who she wanted to become, and putting on that persona like a cloak of confidence until she could develop her own, she was able to push through her fear and convince others of her worth.
Networking is such an essential part of your success as a businessperson. Don’t be afraid to reach out for guidance to make sure you are getting the most out of your efforts. Working with behind closed doors, women can optimise their networking efforts and skills and start cultivating their own strong, supportive business networks.
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