A lot of people are familiar with networking tips, but the word “networking” makes them cringe. They have an image that it involves putting on an expensive suit and attempting to engage in forced conversations with people in order to sell yourself. Sure, this is one way of networking, but it's not the only way.
It comes down to reframing what networking means. Think of it as an open exchange of ideas with a lot of fascinating, like-minded entrepreneurs who are going in the same direction as you. How does that feel?
According to new LinkedIn global survey results, almost 80 percent of professionals consider professional networking to be important to career success. Porter Gale was right when she said that, “Your network is your net worth.”
Let's face it… in today's world, it's not so much what you know, but who you know. No matter how educated or switched-on you are, you've got to put yourself out there in order for people to see and hear you. As an entrepreneur, your ability to showcase who you are and build an influential network of relationships is the most important asset that you have in a business.
When I first started growing my online business, I found networking to be challenging. However, I knew that I had to step outside of my comfort zone if I wanted to level up my life and my business. In the words of Wayne Baker, “Discomfort is good. Most people interpret discomfort as a warning sign telling them to avoid something. The opposite is true for networking. Discomfort is a sign that you are doing something right.”
Was it easy? No way! Networking was a skill that I had to learn how to master.
By nature, I'm an introverted person. When I’m overstimulated, it can make me feel depleted and exhausted. Put me in a room with hundreds of other people where I am forced to socialize and focus my attention in many different directions and it's easy for me to go into overwhelm mode.
Research shows that the act of networking can be harder for introverts. According to Dr. Marti Olsen Laney in his book, The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World, information travels down a longer neural pathway in the introvert’s brain. Not only is the pathway longer, but the introvert’s brain works harder to process interactions and events alongside thoughts and feelings.
Here's the thing… if you want to be an entrepreneur, you've got to take risks and face your fears. I knew that if I wanted to be successful I had to do the one thing I didn't think I could do. My passion for personal growth and development was bigger than my fears.
I would consciously put myself in environments where I could network and maximize my opportunities. I was committed to doing anything and everything to grow my business. I strove to surround myself with people that were doing the very things that I wanted to do in my business. I soaked up all of the knowledge that I could.
The question is, “How do you stay motivated to network when all you want to do is go home?”
It all comes down to how bad you want success.
There are too many people in this world who say that they want to be successful, but they aren't willing to do the hard work and put themselves out there. You never know what could come from deciding to do something that you wouldn't normally do.
At its core, networking is all about connecting with people on a deeper level. Meeting like-minded entrepreneurs who share the same interests and values as I do has played a huge role in accelerating my success. If you dislike networking, there is a possibility that you aren't doing it the right way, or you may have a skewed understanding of what it entails.
Here are 7 networking tips that will help you build your business and work a room like a pro.
1. Prepare In Advance
First and foremost, you want to determine why you are attending a specific event. Are you interested in learning more about the subject matter, do you want to find new clients, or do you want to collaborate with someone on an upcoming project you've been thinking about?
When you know what you want to achieve from an experience, you will be better able to prepare yourself for the kinds of people that you hope to meet and the questions that you will ask them.
Secondly, figure out who is going to be at the event. If it is available to you, access the speaker list. Is it possible to reach out to them before the event? If so, do it. Similarly, you could reach out to the event organizer and ask for a list of the people's names who are attending. You've got nothing to lose.
The type of event that you are going to is going to determine how you dress as well. Is it casual or fancy? The last thing that you want to do is show up at a classy event underdressed. At all times, dress for success. The way that you groom yourself says a lot about who you are.
Never forget that you are the face of your brand. When it comes to networking, first impressions are everything. How do you want to be remembered?
2. Be Authentic
Authentic networking involves a desire to create genuine connections with people. It's not just about getting a business card or growing your LinkedIn list. This is not a numbers game. Entrepreneurs who have developed networking skills know how important it is to be sincerely interested in other people's businesses.
I don't know about you, but I find it tiring trying to be someone that I'm not. Why bother putting on a show? Trust yourself and be real in your interactions with others. When you show people who you really are, that energy will shine through, and they will feel it.
Being authentic is about knowing your value. What do you bring to the table? Tap into your unique strengths and own them.
3. Share Your Passion
If networking doesn't come easy for you, think about your personal brand. What are the reasons why you are so passionate about it? Share with people what your inspirations are behind the work that you do. What led you to where you are today? When you speak from this place, conversations will flow more naturally.
Similarly, be curious about other people's passions. Find out what makes them tick and look for commonalities. Don't be afraid to ask people questions because it shows that you have a genuine interest in their work. When you engage in this type of dialogue, a beautiful synchronicity can unfold, that involves two people who are simply sharing with one another what it is that makes them come alive inside.
4. Drop The Sales Jargon
This is where people trip up. Networking is not about how many sales you can land. Rather, it's about making meaningful connections. I'm a firm believer that sales happen organically down the road, once you have established rapport and credibility with people.
That being said, if someone asks you about your business, keep it simple and light. Give them a succinct description of what you do. This is where an elevator pitch comes in handy. Can you describe your business in 30 seconds?
5. Join A Mastermind Group
For those of you that aren't familiar with how a mastermind group works, it is a group of like-minded people who meet on a regular basis to talk through their challenges, come up with solutions, share connections, and motivate one another. It's the ultimate accountability platform for an entrepreneur.
Being part of a mastermind group has been one of the most valuable things that have helped me to grow my business. When you join a group like this you automatically grow your network on an exponential level. Sure, you can create success on your own. However, this is a great way to accelerate that process.
The entrepreneurial journey can be a bumpy ride. Why not move through it with a high-powered support system of like-minded entrepreneurs? Two heads are always better than one. I have yet to meet one successful entrepreneur who hasn't employed the principle of masterminding.
6. Follow-Up With People
Networking doesn't end once you leave an event, seminar, or conference. Rather, it's just the beginning. If you felt that you connected with someone who could add value to your life, make the effort to follow-up with him or her within 48 hours after meeting.
If you really want to be remembered, make reference to something about the person that you both discussed during your conversation. It will show that not only did you listen to what he or she had to say, but that you also genuinely care.
7. Focus On Adding Value
When you are growing your network, always focus on adding value. If you help other people, they will help you as well. Think of networking as an opportunity to build a strong community of people who uplift and inspire one another.
Your network should never be merely thought of as a contact list. I always come from a place of contribution when I am networking. When I give someone something, whether that's a contact name or a piece of business advice, I don't expect anything in return. Whenever I meet someone I ask myself, “How can I positively impact this person's life?”
According to Deepak Chopra in his bestselling book The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success: A Practical Guide to the Fulfillment of Your Dreams, “How can I help?” is the only question that truly matters.
By doing this, you're developing authentic, mutually beneficial relationships that have the potential to fuel your growth on both a personal and professional level.
I encourage you to utilize one or more of these networking tips the next time you attend an event.
When it comes to making connections, networking is the catalyst that allows you to do so, and it is an integral part of being a successful entrepreneur. As Sallie Krawcheck once said, “Networking is the #1 unwritten rule of success in business.” Are you ready to work a room like a pro? Dive in and start networking!
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