A Guide To Networking Like A Professional
As you might suspect, we've seen the best and worst of networking here at CCIQ. When done properly, networking can be a significant driver for the success of your business. It can lead to new partnerships, referral business, sales, ideas and game-changing connections that can propel your growth goals in ways that wouldn’t have been possible on your own. But done poorly, you could be doing yourself more harm than good.
So how do you network like a pro and reap these benefits? We’ve put together this comprehensive guide to get you out there and seeing results from your networking efforts.
How To Think About Networking
Too often, people see networking events as places to relentlessly plug their business and hope that they get something out of it. This leads to continuous unsolicited sales pitches, spraying people with business cards and eventually annoying everyone they talk to. Networking, above all else, is about conversing with people and making a personal connection. You’re not trying to sell the idea of your business – you’re trying to sell the idea of yourself as a person! If you can have conversations and make connections on a personal level without sounding like a salesman, you will make a more lasting impression and see more success in your business.
What Results Should You Expect
Just because you’ve networked at an event does not necessarily mean that you will get more business right off the bat. However, if you’ve done your job well - you’ve made a good impression and a personal connection with people – you can expect more work to eventually come your way. It may not even be from the people you directly talked to, but from their referrals and word of mouth advertising.
Networking Online - Is It Any Good?
The Internet provides infinite opportunity to connect with people from all over the world. Chatting in online forums, having a social media presence and joining online associations are excellent ways to get your name out into the digital world and reach people in ways that would have otherwise been impossible. Keep these tips in mind when using the web to network:
- When commenting on forums or sending E-mails, always include a brief digital signature. It should include your contact information, the name of your business, a website link (if you have one) and a short, optional tagline.
- Always be polite and professional in forums. Getting into arguments or being rude to other members reflects poorly on you and your business – and remember, in some cases once it’s online it can be impossible to erase.
- Promote other individuals and businesses whenever you can. This builds stronger relationships with your professional connections and increases the likelihood of the favour being returned. Accomplish this by re-tweeting, sharing posts or referring to them in forums.
- Join a networking site such as LinkedIn to keep tabs on your contacts, build your online network and gain access to broader networking opportunities.
Networking At Events
Getting out and meeting people face-to-face is the bread and butter of networking. Follow these simple tips to avoid a networking etiquette slip-up and give the best impression you can.
- Dress to impress. Wear clean, professional clothing and bring your best attitude.
- Have a quick elevator pitch ready for when someone asks you about your business. It should be short and get the message across about why your business exists and how you help customers, not just what you do. Add some humour or wit to make it memorable.
- Start with non-business conversation. When introducing yourself, try to find a common interest or point of conversation before jumping into business. Remember, it’s about making a connection first and foremost.
- Give them something of value. No, I don’t mean a present! Offer a helpful tip, referral, website or book that they can use to their benefit. The help will be appreciated, and they will be more likely to remember you.
- Bring more than enough business cards. You don’t want to run out of business cards half way through the event!
- Seek out those you don’t know. People tend to shy away from new faces and drift towards those they have an acquaintance with. While it is good to keep current connections alive, your goal should be to meet new people.
- Get to know the event coordinators. They will be a great connection to have, and will likely be able to introduce you to other influential people attending the event.
- Keep the conversation light and positive. Slandering your competition and talking about personal issues or negative subjects will look bad on both you and your business.
- Try to be confident! If you are a naturally shy person, this may be a little more difficult for you. It's okay to admit that you're nervous up-front. You'll usually find other people are too!
- Detach yourself from the wall, introduce yourself to the people you want to meet and just have fun.
Networking Opportunities Are All Around You
Unsure of where to go or how to get started? There are tonnes of ways to get your name out there and connect with like-minded professionals:
- Join a networking group - why not CCIQ? With a little research you can likely find a professional networking club that’s local to you. If you're into something more niche, try using meetup.com to find a group that suits your needs.
- Volunteer. Serve an organisation whose mission you truly believe in, and you will be in a great position to connect with other individuals who have the same passion or vision as you.
- Travel To Events. Turn your attention to the big cities and attend a popular seminar or networking event. People who are serious about networking will travel thousands of miles to attend prime events in large cities – and so should you!