The word ‘networking’ brings a lot of negative definitions in mind, but the fact is that networking can actually work as a catalyst in accelerating success of your company.
It is not only useful in learning directly from the individuals you meet, but you will also benefit from the association with prominent people. It helps in growing your authority.
For introverts, networking can leave a bad taste in the mouth. But one should always keep in mind that being an entrepreneur one has to don different roles so as to reach the top. Many of us aren’t sure where to start, how to break the ice, how to connect with people how to build a relationship and how to maintain a relationship.
In today’s business world what matters is who you know than what you know, strong relationships can directly contribute to your company’s success.
As mentioned earlier, it can be tough for introverts to go out with people or socialise, some may find it difficult others may take it as a waste of time to even go for a coffee with a business associate. But it is quite important to build a mutually beneficial business network.
One can’t even imagine how a strong relationship can help in finding new leads and potential customers. It’s like an investment and not a cost. Not just that, a business relationship also mean improved management skills and discovery of new ideas. One connection leads to other, making it easier for you to establish your own network.
Networking is more than just exchange of cards
Before starting the game of networking; you must change your mindset. It is more than just the exchange of business cards. Always remember, the people you are approaching are being approached by a lot of others like you. It’s not difficult for these people to weed out the fake people.
So it is better to be authentic and build genuine relationships. No matter, whom you are trying to approach treating that person as a friend rather than a business contact will help you in building a stronger relationship.
So, rather than thinking how would you approach a business associate, think how would you approach a potential friend. Finding common connections, taste, likes, dislikes helps in building the relationship. Above all, keep your relationship light and show that you care.
Know what you want
The key is to be planned and organized. It should not be an accident that you are attending an event. You must plan much in advance, you must have specific goals and should schedule follow-up meetings in advance as well.
At the beginning of the year, you must work out a business plan. As an entrepreneur, you need a networking strategy in place to sort out who do you want to approach, who do you want to meet on a regular basis, who could be a potential business associate etc.
In the end of the year, you must check much have you achieved – like how many meetings have you attended, how well you did in a meeting, how you building relationships and how many meetings have yielded you results.
What are others doing?
Thumb rule is to ask around and see the type of events your peers are attending. Business workshops, conferences, trade events offer excellent opportunities for business development and meet new people.
You can register yourself in the local chamber of commerce as they can give you the ideas for events you can attend.
Preparing for social events
People usually feel uncomfortable at networking events because they feel like an outsider in a party who doesn’t know anybody. But here’s a catch, everybody else is sailing in the same boat.
Here are few things that you must remember while preparing for a networking event:
– Take along your business cards
– Since the first impression is the last impression, you must dress accordingly. Paying attention to your look is essential; as people will be looking at you from different corners of the place you are at, so power dressing is what you need.
– Preparing a brief speech about introducing yourself and your business won’t hurt. It will help people in knowing you. It will also come handy when you are nervous while meeting new people.
– You must avoid spending time with people you know. Make an effort and roam around, speak to new people. It will help in broadening your circle.
– Focus on the idea of what you can do for others, not what they can do for you.
– Be curious about what other people do, ask questions and also avoid a direct call to action sales talk.
– Don’t stick to people for long, remember they are there for the same reason as you. Having brief meetings and move on.
– To build a relationship, at the end of the meeting fix a detailed meeting and also suggest a goal for the meeting.
What kind of connections one must possess
It is something that one must ponder over. Having many casual contacts is better or having less but beneficial is something that you are looking for? To run a successful business knowing people doesn’t harm anyone, but it is better to build stronger relationships with lesser people than having 100 casual contacts.
It is beneficial to invest into building relationships with trusted connectors and influencers of your field.
Be the social media butterfly
Having face-to-face conversations is one thing. In today’s world, when everybody is running out the time it becomes nearly impossible to stay connected with everyone. So how would you build a relationship? The solution is social media.
Yes, it may sound stupid, but being an entrepreneur you must be an active social media butterfly. Once you develop a strong relationship with someone and you are confident enough to have that person in your personal space just add him/her on your LinkedIn and Facebook page.
LinkedIn is a cool networking site for professionals, so adding a person there won’t evade your privacy. This way you will be connected to all your contacts. Congratulating them on their success will help in maintaining a cordial relationship.
Connecting with peers and then just socializing with them every now and then won’t work. The first step in a networking strategy is, of course, connecting with your peers, but then you won’t have to stop there. Just step out of your circle and move ahead, meet new people and build new relationships.
You have planned to network, even met few people and now you are wondering as in how to grow your network and that too fast. Here’s a sure shot tip – go out of the way to introduce two people who can benefit from each another. It may sound too simple, but it is something that you would hardly see somebody doing.
People usually don’t do this, but you have seen somebody actually going out of the way to introduce two people then you have met an influential superconnecter. So, follow that path and be one of them. Go extra miles for people and help them connect with others.
Here are few things that you must keep in mind while working on this strategy:
Have a big heart: Keeping a score won’t help in any way, in fact, it keeps you at par from the superconnectors. To be the one, have a heart of gold and try to always help people by sharing contacts.
Choose friends over contacts: Having contacts is ok, but having friends is a different thing. Put away your business thing and build genuine relations with people. Investing in authentic relationships in beneficial than having so many contacts that you don’t even remember their names. Always remember; never talk business until and unless it is required.
Connect other influencers: Do you know two resourceful persons who can benefit from each other? Have they met already? If not, then you can become a mediator and introduce them. That’s the easiest connection you can make because if the two are already resourceful, then they will be popular among in their respective circles and friendly as well. Connecting these two will keep you in their good books. They might return the favour in the future, which will benefit you.
Follow up: We do kickstart the conversation, connect with influential people, but forget or don’t bother to follow up. Once you have done your bit of introducing people, don’t think that your job is over. Follow up immediately on how things went, how was the meeting and how are things going forward. It will take your relationship with those two at a different level. In today’s times, when people only expect something from others, you being the giver will put in a different category of people. Show that you care, it will take you far.
These were few tips on how to improve your networking skills. Apart, from this if possible and if your professions allow, you can interview influencers and publish it through different media. It works as a chain reaction.
Author Bio : Anand Rajendran is the CEO of Uptra, a company that provides taxation services to various companies. As a professional consultant, he always focuses on guiding organizations to grow their business with the latest strategies. Uptra consultancy services enable organizations to file their tax returns with qualified accountants.