Networking eh? Our brains throw up images of people wearing name badges standing around in a Hilton Conference Room making polite conversation, swapping contact details and waiting for the complimentary tea, coffee and cookies to arrive. It's enough to make you want to stay at home and burn all your business cards. I'm here to tell you it doesn't have to be this way. Networking is actually enjoyable, extremely beneficial and makes your life a whole lot easier. Here's how.
First Rule Of Networking. Don't Be Self-Absorbed.
It's not all about you! Many people approach networking as a way to gain things from other people. How may times have you introduced yourself to someone in the hope they can hook you up with someone you want to meet? Perhaps you want to sell them something? Maybe you want them to help you with a project? Or advise you on something? Take take take take take. It is NOT all about you. To network effectively you need to remember this is a two-way process and that successful networking is beneficial for both parties.
Second Rule Of Networking. Don't Be Selfish.
Now we have the first rule out in the open, take the time to stop and think about what you can OFFER someone you network with. Yes, that's right, make a list of the skills you bring to the table.
Are you well-connected and can introduce like-minded people? Have you in-depth knowledge in your field that others don't have? Do you know the best suppliers at the best prices? Can you offer more value than other companies? When you introduce yourself to someone and start to chat, keep this in mind. Sometimes you have to give a little to receive and it's nice to be nice.
Third Rule Of Networking. Be Genuine.
There's nothing worse than meeting someone and feeling like you're on the receiving end of a well-rehearsed script. You stand there, take a deep breath and start rattling off your personal history, your company history and your 'USP' without even asking yourself whether it's relevant let alone interesting to the other person. Take your time to find out a little about the other person. Have an actual conversation. Tailor what you talk about based on the conversation and you will come across as genuine. People like to help genuine people more than they like to help people who talk 'at' them from a script.
Fourth Rule Of Networking. Don't Suck Up.
Some people only value contacts who are at a certain level. The higher the better. BIG mistake. What if everyone thought that way and only chased the top level of their industry? Unless you yourself are one of the top level elite then wouldn't that mean you too would be ignored in favour of a big boss and yet you have a lot to offer. Do you see how limiting this can be? People at all levels can be great to network with. You never know how influential they can be and they may have insider information that can help you get ahead. They may even be the next in line for a big role? Everyone has value so don't just suck up to the bigwigs or you'll fail at networking.
Fifth Rule Of Networking. Use It Or Lose It.
You've swapped contact details, found out what you could potentially do for each other and even learned a little about their outside interests. You input their details into your phone and........ *tumbleweed*. If you genuinely connect with someone, like them and feel at some point you could help each other out then stay in touch. It sounds like a no-brainer but you'd be surprised at how many people don't bother to make contact with the other person until they want something. Send a quick email seeing how they are and update them on something of interest. Give them a call and catch up on industry news,. Arrange a coffee. Build professional friendships as well as networking opportunities and you'll not only find you've opened up your network to interesting people, but you'll be cropping up in conversations that could benefit your business.