We’ve all heard the quote “It’s not what you know, but who you know” and in terms of business and connecting the dots to make deals and moves that will place you on top, there couldn’t be a more true statement. Networking is incredibly important to master if you have plans to compete in any certain market segment. That being said, what are some of the best ways of networking and where might one go to meet the influential people that can turn our business exploits into a full blown success story? The following are a few tips we can focus on when trying to make our networking efforts really matter.
- You must get out and be social – This may come as a shock to some, but in order to properly network you need to be attending as many social gatherings, business conferences, and industry events as possible. Yes, online networking is as important as ever, but making a true eye to eye connection in person is much more powerful.
- Picking the right events to attend – While you may meet some pretty interesting people simply going out to bars and coffee shops, there are of course places that will make much more sense when seeking to meet important people in your business niche. Industry related shows, demos, charity events and fundraisers, and any after parties that these events may have are all great places to meet people in your field.
- Diversify your networking contacts – When seeking out new potential valued contacts, make sure to focus on meeting people in your industry that hold a different position and have a specific set of skills or knowledge that you may not possess. For example, you may be a fashion designer and be attending a show where there are hundreds of people in the industry. It is of course great to meet other fashion designers and know your competition, but it may be much more valuable to get to know the wholesale clothing purchasers that are attending the show, or perhaps the owner of a specialty clothing store. Getting to know people in every facet of the industry is paramount to networking success.
- Ask and listen, then tell – When connecting with people make sure you ask them as much about their business and what their position entails, then after listening intently inform them about your business and position. Ask the right questions to find out exactly their function and to evaluate if you should pursue a second encounter with them to find out more. Questions such as “who is in charge of buying decisions?” or “what clients do you currently work with?” are effective in determining their role and importance. Exchanging business card is a no brainer at this point and if they aren’t currently carrying one, ask if they are on social media.
- Stay Connected and Secure a Second Encounter – If your connect with a certain important contact always attempt to set up some kind of further meeting or place to carry on the relationship. It may be uncomfortable to invite this person to dinner, coffee, or for a drink, but maybe you know of a similar event or happening in the industry and you talk about meeting up with them at that event as well. Ask that person if you can give them a call if you have questions about their segment of the industry. If you can’t get a meeting set up in person, be sure to connect on social media via LinkedIn, Facebook, ect.
- Provide Potential Contacts with Value – Most people will be more than willing to have a business relationship with you if they know you can provide them with something of value. Offer the people you meet access to your knowledge and expertise. Let them know that you’d love to stay in contact and that your knowledge can be accessed in exchange for their particular area of expertise. Be genuine and don’t boast about your position or knowledge, but be accessible and willing to share and contribute to their business as well.
These are just a few tips to making your networking effort count. Above all we need to be ourselves and be open to meeting new people. We need to focus our efforts and be methodical about getting a second encounter and following up. We need to provide people with value and give them a reason to exchange their knowledge. If we do these this consistently and gain a diverse network of professionals around us, this will lead to tremendous opportunity.