Networking is a way of life that has been integrated into society for centuries. It is how business was done before social media, and is still a significant business asset today—when done well.
There were gentlemen’s clubs in the days of yore. “Good old boys” networks and stiletto networks, country club memberships, and chambers of commerce gatherings, to name a few, and are all still in effect and going strong.
Over the years, I’ve met people are highly skilled at networking—and then there are those who miss the point entirely.
At a recent Chamber of Commerce meeting an individual stated that they don’t really have an interest in the “gunslinger” types who come in, pass out business cards and leave just as quickly. Others in the meeting agreed that they were looking for real relationships as well, but it seemed that they were all at a loss regarding how to make that happen.
Intuitively, I think we all know that showing up at a meeting and spouting off your elevator speech, handing over a business card and moving on isn’t the best networking strategy.
I experienced this first hand recently at a swanky networking event where the hors d’oeuvres were small, the drinks fancy, the cliques tight and conversation superficial. While I left with many business cards—honestly the only two people that I remember was the interior designer who seemed irritated to be there and the event photographer who had an obsession with my red boots.
As you may have already guessed, I have not called either of those people to connect further.
So how do we do it? How do we network in such a way that it isn’t a massive waste of time?
In my experience, it takes: Time and Intention.
With that in mind, try this networking strategy:
1. Make a short list of people that you have an excellent win/win working relationship with and invite them to sit down with you for the purpose of making connections. Generally I find that face-to-face conversations are more effective than any other mode of communication currently available to us in these modern times of emails, texts and social media.
2. Choose a location or an event that is attractive, interesting or different. An atmosphere that will serve to quickly and easily connect you to your networkee and that allows for conversation and discussion.
3. Start with small talk. This is “relationship 101” type of stuff. Seek to get to know the person across from you better than you did before this meeting.
4. From there, move into business-related discussion. How have you solved a particular problem in your organization? Who do you use for XYZ? And the ever popular topic of millennials can keep a conversation going. Have good questions in mind before you arrive. Be intentional about listening to the answers of your counterpart and then responding. Listen for opportunities to help one another and to be an asset to them.
5. Once you’ve solved the world’s problems together, (*wink*) ask, “Who do you know that I should know?” followed by, “Would you introduce me?” Be specific. Set a deadline. Then set the expectation to connect again in the near future.
6. Set a networking goal and strive to meet it. It’s all about who you know, after all.
Networking is an effective tool that will help you to expand your business—when and if it is done well.
Be intentional. Commit to making time for networking.
Network well, and you will be happy with the results. And Hint of Feisty is here to help you make it happen. And—details about Hint of Feisty’s “Networking Rebellion” are coming soon!
You may also want to read:
Marketing Your Company: Five Minutes a Day