On a scale of 1 to 10 how would you rate your networking skills?
I always thought I scored around an 8 or a 9, because I'm an extrovert who loves talking and building relationships.
But during my last 10 years in sales, I have met some amazing people in the global arena (introverts and extroverts alike) with networking skills far exceeding my own.
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This made me realise that it doesn't matter what type of personality you have or how good your networking skills are, if you are willing to learn from the best you can become the best.
Diane Darling, the CEO of Effective Networking defines networking as “building relationships before you need them".
That's difficult because we tend to only do things when we need to. If you're running a marathon, you don't wait until the morning of the race and then just go out to run. You’ve already prepared for months to set you up for success. With networking, when you really need a job or new clients, empowering your existing contacts is the key to getting you there.
#1: Don't wait for networking events to network.
We’ve all been to those networking events where people hand out business cards, do a quick pitch only to send you generic mail that you don’t respond to.
Even though networking events can be super useful, you need to see any social event as a networking event. When you're at the gym or a workshop or an online event, always be ready to meet and engage with new people with the intent on building relationships. Not only will this help you to grow your network, but it also helps you to build up your confidence if you are an introvert. It’s a lot easier to strike up a conversation about something you are passionate about (like working out) than trying to sell yourself to someone who simply doesn’t care
#2: Build relationships, not contacts
One of the most common mistakes people make is networking with the sole purpose of selling. Networking can be a very powerful business growth tool when used correctly. The problem is that people can see a sales pitch from a mile away and even if they are polite enough to listen to you, they probably won't do business with you.
So how do you shift from building contacts to building relationships?
Listen. It might sound easy, but most people listen to reply rather than focusing on the conversation.
Be interested in the person you are talking to. Instead of trying to tell them all about YOU and YOUR BUSINESS, ask them questions like what brings you here, what are you hoping to get out this, tell me more about your business.
Make an effort to learn and USE someone’s name. Research has proven that by using someone’s name repeatedly during a conversation makes you more relatable and memorable.
#3: Be prepared
Sure, you can go out there and wing it and hope for the best or you can be prepared and make the most of it.
Some of the best ways to prepare is by:
Researching the audience. This will help you to strike up some great conversations about what they might be interested in or avoid any awkward topics.
Make an effort to stand out. I met a guy at a conference who always wore really thought-provoking t-shirts, by day 3 everyone was waiting to see what his shirt would say. It was a fun discussion topic, and everyone remembered him.
Write and memorise a really good elevator pitch. So when someone asks you what you do, you have a really unique, short and impactful answer. No one wants to hear you rambling on about your business for ages.
If you have other great ways of preparing let us know in the comments, we would love to hear from you.
#4: Connect on social platforms
If you have been building great relationships and really connecting to someone during an event, the next important step is to connect on social platforms, follow them on Instagram, and connect on LinkedIn.
LinkedIn is a phenomenal marketing platform, but it differs vastly from other social platforms. You need to ensure that you are on this platform an using it correctly.
85% of positions are filled by networking. That why its super important to focus on quality instead of quantity. When connecting on LinkedIn it’s not about how many people you have in your network but rather if you have quality connections with people who can help you and work with you in the long run.
Don't send or accept a connection request without a personal message, remember to be intentional.
Lastly ensue that you are acing your basic LinkedIn profile set up by:
Including a professional picture. Profiles with pictures get 21 x more views and 36 x more messages.
Upload a banner. use this to showcase value and personality.
When you want to connect with other partners companies, a great way of giving first is by sharing one of their blog posts and tagging people in your network that you think might find it valuable.
If you need help setting up your LinkedIn profile, we highly recommend Bridget, a LinkedIn and CV writing specialist.
#5: Be an awesome matchmaker
You heard me correctly. Connecting the right people to each other during networking events will not only help others but help you in the long run.
Think about this: how many times do we dismiss people in our network that don't meet OUR needs. But you need to change your mindset and start thinking, how could it help other people in my network?
This will definitely give you a massive advantage, because now when you are having those meaningful conversations, you will not only be able to determine their pain point but solve it. Everyone wants to partner with someone who cares about their needs and is willing to help them.
This will help you to build a really strong and vast network.
I want to end off with one of my favourite quotes: Your network is your net worth.
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