Frankly, most professionals don’t give a damn about how to network, because they try and sell who they are and what they do based on past success – assuming this will open doors and business. However by selling rather than marketing, many people just simply walk away with no benefit or potential outcome. Consequently events become nothing short of boring and a general waste of time. I can see you nodding.
On the other hand, some professionals enjoy networking, are good conversationalists, and like finding out different people and their industries rather than telling people about them.
And they may even bother to remember a few names, and ask questions with genuine curiosity…but sadly believe that a few new business cards in their top pocket and the promise “lunch” they are a) competent networkers and b) business is in the bag.
But with no strategy, preparation, and plan in mind before they walk in, they too walk out no better off than before they came – other than having enjoyed a few drinks and the chance to eat highly loaded cholesterol pizzas they wouldn’t get at home. Agree?
It’s never been more important for CEO’s, Executives and Directors to master the art of networking to keep abreast of changes, people, situations and expectations of both customer and staff. Failing to convert contacts into contracts because one simply don’t like or understand HOW to network is no excuse and is a tragic waste of resources, time and opportunity no business can afford. In other words your Networking plan is as important as your business and marketing plan. It doesn’t begin and end with reading who’s who on the attendance board at a function and hope the letters after your name or your good looks will do the talking for you. Generational changes and expectations have made sure of that.
It means provide value, benefit and interest directly to others, or they’ll take their business to someone else who can. Then recognise the quality of the contacts by what they’re able to do for your business such as investing in your service, recommending you to others, giving you publicity, or being able to offer you important advice or feedback.
So establish your value with others before, during and after the interaction has taken place. It’s that simple, yet that hard. So, if you’re serious about being one of a kind and not one of the same when you network, here are six options to consider.
1. Take initiative and create opportunities to introduce yourself to people you admire who have made a significant difference to business. Send them a hand written note expressing your interest in them, their work and the impact it has made on you.
2. Take along several blank business cards when attending a function for those who “don’t have any with them .” or have forgotten them. When you leave, write three things on all cards about each person that was meaningful to them so you can follow up accurately.
3. Make contact soon after and don’t believe email is good enough. It’s just one of the same – not something different. Send an article of interest, have something delivered, and even show them you have their best interests in mind by referring someone other than yourself that can add value in a different way. Be generous before you request anything.
4. Ask organisers of the event to sit you with certain persons that you want an introduction to. If they say they can’t promise, ask them specifically to make a personal introduction on the day. If they do, follow up with a thank you so some kind.
5. Don’t be reluctant to ask your networks if they know others who may benefit from your products or services.
6. Be in the moment when you network – if you suffer from premature exasperation by interrupting, talking too much or being impatient, don’t expect people will be interested in following up as they may have stopped listening before you finished talking.
Masterful networking builds relationships and business. The stronger your relationships the stronger your business and networth. If that’s important to you, you’ll convert casual contacts into business contracts.