Networking is a crucial component in a business owner or entrepreneur’s life, but most don’t know the secret of how to make networking more productive. Shaking hands and exchanging business cards rarely creates a lasting connection that will translate into a productive (and profitable) business relationship. You have to go deeper than that and it requires a little time and a follow up strategy but, for now, I am going to give you 10 ways to get the process started on being productive and in part two, I will share the follow up strategies to make it profitable.
1. Start with the contacts you already have.
Many entrepreneurs have built a six figure business by networking with the people they already know. Cultivate and invest in those connections and build those relationships first.
2. It is not just about referrals or making a sale.
Your focus should not be on making a sale, but instead it should be on what introduction you can make or what resource you can share that will fill a need that other person has.
3. It is not about exchanging business cards.
It is about getting to know the person behind the business card and developing a relationship with them. It is better to have a few synergistic conversations than to give away all your business cards.
4. NEVER add someone to your email list without their permission.
This is not only a turn off but it is against the can-spam law as well. The exchange of a business card is not implied consent to add them to your email list.
5. Remember it is also about who they know and who knows them.
When you take the time to cultivate a relationship with someone, you are also creating a connection to those that they know and those that know them.
6. Asking better questions will get better answers.
Try trading in the over used “What do you do?” for alternatives such as “Who do you serve?” which will help you establish some synergy you can build on if you both serve some of the same industries.
7. Remember birthdays, anniversaries and holidays.
Some social media platforms such as Facebook can help you with this. If you want to make an even bigger impression, try sending an actual card from time to time. Since that is rarely done in this digital age, it will leave a lasting impression.
8. Ask them what they need or how you can serve them FIRST.
Then try to provide what they need by connecting them with someone you know and trust without the expectation of getting something in return.
9. Maximize LinkedIn and other social media platforms.
Make new connections, reconnect with old connections and ask for introductions.
10. Listen more than you talk.
There is a reason we have 2 ears and 1 mouth. People like to connect with (and work with) people that really listen to them. Listening will also help you to know what their problems are. Then, at some point in the future, you may be able to assist them with a solution to their problem or refer them to someone who can.
If you haven’t noticed it yet, the common thread is that networking is about the other person and their needs, not about your business and trying to make a sale. This may be a major shift in your networking strategy but, if you give it a try, you will see a marked difference in the quality of your business connections from networking events.
Did any of these tips surprise you? Try a few of these networking tips and please share how it went or a tip of your own in the comments below.