How to get the most from networking
Practical networking tips that will help you get more business
Personally, I’m a huge fan of networking and social interactions in general. Yes, I realise that “being a fan of social interactions” can sound a tad silly, but it’s true. Allow me to elaborate. If you know how to talk to people and how to present your point, there’s almost always something to be gained from a positive social interaction. You don’t even have to be at a designated “networking event” to benefit from your “networking skills”. As a matter of fact, most of the qualities attributed to, and associated with, someone good at networking are also present in people who just want to make friends and help others!
In today’s blog post, I’ll give you a quick and simple framework that you can use to get the most out of your networking. And who knows, maybe it’ll even help you in your day-to-day life as well!
But before we dive right into it, I’d like to take a moment and address the shy introverts among you. Because I’m almost 100% certain that as soon as this article goes live, I’ll receive at least a dozen emails from people, using their “shyness” as an excuse.
“But I’m shy … Can’t I be a businessperson without networking?”
While it is most certainly possible to run a business without having the support and opportunities that a robust network of contacts provides, you are definitely going to be worse off for it. If you happen to be an introvert, or if you just don’t like hanging out with people for one reason or another, I suggest that you work on yourself, rather than settle for less or ignore networking altogether. Shy business leaders will have a much harder time growing their business – this is just a fact of life. As the saying goes – You miss every shot you don’t take!
You’ve already breached the borders of your comfort zone, without realizing it!
As I often say, choosing to start your own business is a risky thing. You’ve given up the safety net that is a guaranteed monthly paycheck. You’ve decided that you, in fact, do have what it takes to control your own destiny.
You already are the shot-caller in your life. If you’ve made it this far, you surely can’t just give up now, can you? And don’t you dare talk try to weasel yourself out of this by bringing up lame excuses and the likes – networking isn’t scary, and it barely costs you anything!
Running a business is a journey of self-improvement
Don’t believe me? Think about all of the new things that you’ve had to learn since deciding to become a business owner. Almost every single skill, used for running a business, is also helpful in your day-to-day life as well:
- Time management
- Discerning the real value of things
- Turning less-than-ideal situations around
And, you’ve guessed it – Networking!
So stop making excuses and get ready to go out there and meet new people! (I realise how this came out, and I promise you that I didn’t steal this from a PUA)
1. Networking 101: Go where the people are
If you’re going to an event with the intent of networking, you will want to filter your options carefully. The Internet and social networks have done a lot of great things for us, but giving everyone the ability to host events of no significance isn’t one of them. As soon as you open a Facebook or LinkedIn account, you will be bombarded by so many “business events in your area”, that you can’t possibly show up to them all.
And you don’t really have to! Your time is precious. You should always carefully pick your networking events. When strapped for time, you want to focus on opportunities to meet people from your field or niche, potential business partners, clients or at least someone that you’ll have something in common with.
2. Use every opportunity you get to network
If you aren’t going out with the intent of networking … you can still expand your network! You don’t really need to be at a fancy conference to meet other business people. Contrary to what you see on TV, most business owners don’t only ever hang out in the extremely expensive, members-only clubs. And, in case you actually want to only talk with the type of people that do … well, you know where to find them!
You can network just fine at standard, everyday locations like:
- The grocery store
- The mall
- The gym
- The beach
- The park
- The café
3. If they can’t approach you, you can’t really have a conversation
If you want people to feel comfortable approaching you, you need to make yourself approachable. It is as simple as that. Don’t stand facing the wall. Don’t frown in the general direction of the whole room. Don’t act as if you’d rather be anywhere else but here.
It’s all the standard stuff. If you isolate yourself in a corner and never even look at the people in your room, you can’t hope to get much networking done.
4. Always have a goal in mind
Expanding your professional network is an integral part of business success, and it should be treated as such. If you want to be successful with your networking attempts, you should always approach your meetings with a plan in mind. Enter into the conversation with the goal of learning more about the person you’re talking to and be interested. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Why are you here?
- What are you looking for?
- How many new connections are you trying to establish?
- What type of people do you want to connect with?
- What do your connections need to have in common?
Figuring out the answers will allow you to prepare a simple and easy-to-follow plan on how to proceed with your conversations. Ideally, you’d always be there to connect with at least a couple of new people who would, at one point in time, be able to provide you, or your business with value. Therefore, they’d need to be positive and success-oriented individuals who are more-or-less there with the same goal as you. And would you look at that – you already have something in common!
5. Be the conversation starter
Not all conversationalists are good business leaders, but all good business leaders are excellent at starting conversations.
Know how to open a conversation and get someone’s attention initially. People like talking about themselves and sharing the things that they feel are interesting. And – surprise, surprise – business leaders are people too! Bet you never thought about that, eh? But, in all seriousness, successful business people are much more likely to want to share their hobbies, passions and interests. After all, success is one of the most potent confidence boosters.
You could ask your conversation partner about:
- Their hobbies
- Their interests
- Their passions
- What brings them to this event/location/conference
- What they think is the most important/interesting take-away from the event so far?
- What is the biggest take-away from similar events that they’ve attended in the past?
6. Keep the conversation going
Conversations take more than one person. If you want the discussion to remain interesting for your partner, or better yet – to leave a lasting positive impression on them, you need to make it interactive. And as much as you might enjoy hearing yourself speak, there are no guarantees that whoever you’re talking to shares your position. As with all things in life, moderation is advised. Ideally, you’d both do the same amount of talking and sharing opinions.
7. Invest yourself – Give first, receive later
Provide something of value to your conversation partner. You could offer them a piece of advice or insight on something that they’ve mentioned, suggest a given approach, share a life experience, related to the subject, or suggest connecting them to someone that could help them.
If you apply this method correctly, the other person will feel much more inclined to help you, or in case you aren’t actively “looking” for help, remember your kindness and keep themselves open to future contact possibilities.
8. Stay Positive
I’ve already mentioned how important it is to surround yourself with happy and positive people on many occasions. You always want to pick the uplifting and success-minded individuals over the gloomy defeatists. But here’s the thing – these same positive people won’t want someone negative either.
Be like the type of person that you’d like to attract. Don’t try to bond with people over how bad or negative something is. Instead, focus on the positives. I’ve outlined the most important steps to help you stay positive and happy.
9. Don’t talk just to fill the silence
If you’re new to networking, or to owning a business altogether, it’s really easy to get lost in all the excitement, anxiety and stress surrounding your first events. And, filling the silence with empty words, talking just for the sake of talking, can be very tempting. But this is a trap that you should aim to avoid at all costs.
Approaching people when you can offer nothing of value is the very definition of “wasting time”.
10. Remember to enjoy yourself
Try to make the most out of your experience. Even if the conversation or event at hand isn’t going your way, if you don’t feel particularly excited about what’s going on, don’t let it get to you. After all, you’re there to have a good time… Or, at least, that’s what you want it to look like.
Don’t force yourself to talk with too many people too quickly, don’t be “strictly business” and don’t act as if you’ve got better places to be. All of these things will make you appear too full of yourself and too self-centred to be worth talking to.
11. Always follow up
Contacts that you’ve made during networking need to be “kept warm” not unlike your other business leads. Make a habit of planting expectations of future conversations within the people you meet and always follow up on it (and this is precisely where note-keeping Apps and schedulers come into use). Over time, this will allow you to build reliable connections with numerous people across all business fields and niches.
Well, that about sums up my list for today. And sure, there are a ton of important factors that I didn’t even mention, but we’ve already gone way over my usual post length. For more information on the importance of networking, I suggest that you read through my previous business articles – Links in the resources section below!
And what about you – Do you enjoy networking? What are you least and most favourite parts about it? How often do you visit networking events? As always, if you feel like I’ve missed something crucial, or if you’d like to share your own experiences with networking, please do not hesitate to contact me. I always enjoy hearing from you!
Until next time – stay green and motivated!
Suggested for further reading: my articles on success.
- Audio books on Audible – use Audible to listen to the books, if you don’t have time to read.
- Rich Dad Poor Dad – Robert Kiyosaki
- Money: The Top 100 Best Ways To Make And Manage Money – Ace McCloud
- Business Secrets from the Bible – Daniel Lapin
- The New One Minute Manager – Kenneth Blanchard
- Eat That Frog! – Brian Tracy
- Key Person of Influence – Daniel Priestley
- The 4-Hour Workweek – Timothy Ferriss
- Keys to Success – Napoleon Hill
- How to Be Brilliant – Michael Heppell
- The Millionaire Next Door – Thomas J Stanley
- MONEY Master the Game – Tony Robbins
- Unshakeable: Your Financial Freedom – Tony Robbins
- The Intelligent Investor – Benjamin Graham
- The Wealthy Barber – David Chilton
- Secrets Of The Millionaire Mind – Harv Eker
- Think and Grow Rich! – Napoleon Hill
- I Moved Your Cheese – Deepak Malhotra
- How to Persuade and Influence People – Philip Hesketh
- Legacy – James Kerr
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen R. Covey
- Finding My Virginity – Richard Branson
- 24 Assets – Daniel Priestley