Mention the word “networking” and you’re certain to get a reaction from most business professionals. The question is… what kind of reaction?
You’ll probably make people either frown in agony or get people excitedly pulling out business cards.
Either way, you’re bound to start a conversation around networking, and it’s easy to see why. All those articles on networking tips seem to only add to the confusion!
When most people think about networking it seems insincere at best — and selfish at worst. Too many networking tips focus on strategies that come across as pushy, needy, or self-serving — even though the people using them rarely act that way in daily life.
This, of course, is the complete opposite of what networking is supposed to be — friendly, useful, and genuine.
It’s easy for most of us to be friendly and useful with people we know. However, because networking is a “business activity” it’s easy to think that we need to act in a different way.
Who started this nonsense?
Who said we have to act like crazy pushy salespeople out in public? Nobody likes these kind of people, and when we encounter them we’re usually looking past their shoulder for the closest escape route.
Let’s focus on being useful and don’t make networking harder than it has to be. Networking should be about connecting. Making new friends. Sharing useful information and connecting like-minded people are simple actions that everyone will appreciate.
In the spirit of helping everyone become a better networker, here are a few networking tips that actually work.
1. Identify and quantify the goals you want to achieve at a networking event before you go.
An example of a goal may be to
- learn more about a career,
- meet 5 new collaborative partners in my industry,
- connect with 10 key influencers
Going to an event with a plan will ensure you make the most of the experience.
2. Ask open-ended questions in networking conversations.
This means questions that ask who, what, where, when, and how as opposed to those that can be answered with a simple yes or no.
This form of questioning opens up the discussion and shows listeners that you are interested in them.
3. If you’re feeling bold and you really want to get to know a person, don’t ask them about business.
Ask people personal, revealing questions, such as,
- What is your favorite color?
- How do you wind down? or
- Where would you go on a dream vacation?
These questions will help paint a picture of them as an individual, and give you more interesting information to make a deeper connection.
This is one of my favorite networking tips. Use this one and you’ll definitely stand out from the crowd!
4. You must be able to tell people who you are and what you do in seconds.
Don’t be afraid to make your elevator pitch (or bio, or whatever fancy marketing term we’re using these days) interesting and fun! You should be able to share
- what you do,
- who you do it for, and
- why you do it
…in about 25 words or less.
Practice, practice, practice your elevator speech BEFORE you attend an event so you don’t ramble on like a bumbling idiot.
5. When you network, you’re sharing your personal brand.
What do you want each person to know and remember about you? Hint: it’s probably not your title! Share a piece of your personality to leave a lasting impression.
6. Quality is more important than quantity.
Networking is about building relationships, not getting as many business cards as possible. DON’T SHOVE YOUR BUSINESS CARD IN MY FACE! People always pull out their business card right away. Wait until you are asked for it.
7. Write a note on each business card you collect as a conversation refresher.
Jot down notes to help you remember the person, such as
- What you talked about
- What they wore
- Personal/family information you may have discussed.
When you follow-up with the person, you won’t have to rely exclusively on your memory.
8. Don’t ask for referrals or push offers on people you just met.
You’re strangers for goodness sake! A Person you just met doesn’t know you well enough to make a deal, share referrals, buy your services, or join whatever opportunity you’re pitching. Build relationships and provide value, and get to know people first. No one wants to be sales pitched by a stranger.
I wish people I meet would read these networking tips before meeting me, but I digress…
The bottom line is that there’s more to marketing than simply showing up and shoving your business card into every open hand! Practice tactics to build rapport with new people, and you’ll learn how to proactively build your network.