Leveraging your personal and business contacts is one of the necessary activities of owning a business. People start networking for various reasons:
- To build their businesses
- To attract clients
- Meet and connect with others in their industry
- Look for that next job opportunity and connect with people who can help achieve that goal
Whatever your reasons are for networking, here are some tips to keep in mind.
Tip 1: Networking to make a real connection
Make a connection with the person you are meeting. Be curious, spend time listening to his/her story and think of some way you can be of service to him/her instead of just launching into your own story. Try to connect them with someone you know who can help solve a problem they are having and maintain the connection on an ongoing basis. If you want to add them to your email list, ask them first!
Tip 2: It is who you know
In most organized and established networking groups, it is helpful to know someone already in the group; choose someone who has worked with you or who can vouch for you, establishing immediate credibility. Walking into these groups cold, not knowing anyone, can result in a slow entry and long acceptance period.
Tip 3: Get clear on your intent
Be very clear about why you are going to a particular networking function or joining a particular group. Do you want to be among peers and find referral and/or collaboration partners? Or are you networking to find potential clients? You may find both in the same group, but most people will network in one group with peers and a separate group with potential clients.
Tip 4: Know your potential client
When choosing a networking event where there are potential clients, be really clear who your target client is first. For example, if your target clients are corporate professionals, then networking in a small business type group, like a BNI (Business Network International), doesn’t make sense. Social media can give you a good indication of who is attending different types of events.
When you consider the impact of each of these tips on their own and as a whole, you are armed with the tools for networking more successfully.