Successful networking is the key to any business’ success, whether you’re a single shingle shop owner or the CEO of a global conglomerate. Study after study shows that networking is the number one strategy to move your business forward.
At its heart, networking is about getting in front of the right people at the right time. If you don’t know who to connect with and why to connect with them, you’re just throwing spaghetti at the wall.
I love connecting people to the right people. When that happens, I get to do my happy dance. Seriously. I get up and dance around – because networking done right makes my feet move and my heart sing.
People tell me, “Wait a minute. I don’t need to network in today’s digital age.” Baloney. Networking with a personal touch is more important today than it’s ever been. People are so bogged down by social media and other digital communications, that they are craving an authentic connection. If you do it right, you’ll use technology to enhance your network, not to replace it.
But networking isn’t easy and it’s definitely not random. Successful networking is all about strategy – with a good dose of fun mixed in. Over the years I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t.
Here are tips I’d love to share that will take the fear out of networking and will help you plant the seed for future profitable relationships.
Have a goal before you go to any event.
Networking is all about planning ahead. Who do you want to meet? Who’s your ideal client? As I like to say, who in the room is “coffee worthy”? Remember your goal is not to meet the whole room. It’s to meet one or two key people who could help you build your business.
Be a good listener.
Don’t make this just about you. Ask good questions. Pay attention to the person you’re talking with. Try to figure who they are and how they like to relate to others. And whatever you do, don’t be an eye-wanderer!
Create a powerful elevator pitch.
You need to know what you sell and why it matters. You need to make it short and snappy. And then you need to practice it. A good elevator pitch won’t tell all. Rather, it will intrigue and get your listener wanting to know more. Your job in networking is to entice people into learning about your business and seeing if what you offer is what they need.
Don’t be a business card pusher.
Nothing makes me crazier than seeing the entrepreneur who shoves their business cards in front of everyone’s noses. Be selective. Otherwise those cards will just get tossed. Your purpose is to meet people and then decide if they’re “coffee-worthy.” Is it worth continuing the conversation with them?
Follow-up, follow-up, follow-up.
You go to a networking event. You meet your key “coffee-worthy” people. Now it’s your job to follow up. Don’t let more than 48 hours go by before you send a note or make a phone call. And when you follow up, be sure to move them down the pipeline gently. Just like dating, you don’t want to rush into popping the question. Share how much you enjoyed meeting them and ask for a time to continue the conversation.
If you follow these simple steps, you’ll notice a dramatic difference. I’ve seen it happen! When I hear a client who’s an introvert say “I went to that networking luncheon, and I owned it. I knew where to go. I knew who to talk to. I set my appointments” then I know I’ve done my job.
But don’t feel like you need to rush into networking. Be easy on yourself as you step into what can be a scary and overwhelming arena. Be aware of those old tapes that are telling you that no one wants to meet you and no one values what you offer.
The trick is to make networking a game in which you reward yourself along the way. Treat yourself to a massage, a quick shopping trip, or lunch with a favorite friend (where no business is discussed). Then the process will feel like a joy –not a burden.
The great thing about networking done right is that you’ll no longer be in that dark and gloomy “go it alone” place. You’ll be creating connections that feed your business – and your soul.
So let’s get out there! Commit to networking with a plan, and before you know it, you’ll have a framework of authentic relationships that will make your business healthier and your personal life richer.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Stephanie Arnheim is owner of Stephanie Connects, a company that educates business professionals in the art and science of empowered networking. A Connections Strategist and Master Networker, Stephanie educates people on how to reach the next level in their business using simple daily practices. Her clients learn to overcome fears associated with networking and dynamically connect with their key customers and business resources in powerful ways.
Stephanie is also the Executive Managing Director with the Portland, Oregon Chapter of eWomenNetwork. Her mission is to teach the connection skills needed to succeed in business, cultivate clients, and communicate clearly.