Networking is an effective way to personally connect with the right prospects and strategic partners. But networking is both a skill and a discipline. Here are 5 steps that, if consciously followed, can make doors graciously swing open.
1. Focus on building relationships rather than making transactions
Don’t go into networking events looking to have your immediate needs met. Go in looking to help someone else with their immediate needs. Connect the dots and then connect the people. In conversation, your needs and services will arise, and that person’s job is to connect your dots. To me, this is the meaning of life—we are all here to be resources for one another. Provide value to the people you meet. Listen attentively and create meaningful connections. Plant seeds and ask questions. Truly engage with a handful of interesting new people that you can’t wait to talk with again because you see future potential for both sides.
2. Have a clear and compelling pitch
Build your perfect pitch so that when you are asked “what do you do?” you have a well-rehearsed answer that gives your audience perfect clarity— never say “I wear a lot of hats.” This instantly shreds your credibility and makes you appear to lack focus. With a clear and compelling pitch, your audience will know whether or not they are your target market. If they aren’t a prospect for you, magic happens: they usually think of someone who IS your target client and will offer a meaningful introduction. There’s your golden ticket.
Here’s a challenge: don’t give out any of your business cards unless someone asks you for one. I call this “earning the follow-up call.” If your pitch is so clear and effective that the person you are talking with wants to know more, they are sure to ask you for a card. When this happens, they will put your card in their ‘special pocket’ that they reserve for solid contacts. (Admit it, you have a ‘special pocket’ too.) The beauty of this practice is that it forces you to refine your pitch, and it saves you money in printing. If someone doesn’t ask you for your card, your pitch might need some work.
3. Meet new people
It’s natural to gravitate to the known and familiar, so fight the urge to search the room for friends. You can control the situation by preparing for your event. Know your goal (see tip #1) hone your pitch (see tip #2) and walk into the room confidently. Relax! Everyone in the room is there to be social and get to know people, too. All you are doing is engaging in conversation. Share your value, share your knowledge and practice your altruistic intent… and strive to make 5 exciting new connections.
I am pleasantly surprised by those who actually reach out after a networking event. This epidemic lack of follow-up makes it easy for you to stand out from the networking underachievers. Plan your follow-up before you go to the event. If you have a CRM system, build a generic “nice to see you at such-and-such event” email, and send that out to your meaningful connections immediately. If you offered to make an introduction, write yourself a note on the back of the business card and make that introduction as your second touch. Second touches can also be a phone call, a free gift —a book, content-rich video or a thank you card — or an invitation for a follow-up conversation. Point being, your initial email should be the first of several touches in order to cultivate and build a relationship. Reaching out after a networking event and offering a next step will make you stand out as a person of integrity and professionalism, and will open doors to much more.
5. Be a consistent networker
Effective networking is the proverbial marathon rather than a sprint. Veteran networkers see the newbies come and go…usually in January and September. Rather than being a networking flake, spend some time visiting different groups to find the right fit. And then join the group and show up. The fruits of your efforts won’t show up right away, but by building relationships and spending time getting to know the members, you become part of the community of trusted partners. Integrate your personal brand into your chosen network circle, so you are top-of-mind when one of their contacts needs your specific service and expertise. You can be a person of influence in this networking circle, and your influence will extend outward from there.
Want to know more? Connect with Jodi today for your consultation on professional networking and what The Symphony Agency can do for you.