Whether you own your own business or work for a company, developing networking skills is extremely important.
There are several barriers to networking that many people face. One is fear. They are afraid to walk into an environment where they don’t know anyone. Another barrier is they don’t know what to say.
The good news is you can learn how to effectively network!
It’s important to understand what networking is and isn’t.
Networking is not about going to an event and walking around handing out your business card. It’s not about leaving the event with a stack of business cards.
What is networking about?
It’s about building relationships with other people. Making the right connections can enable you to reach your goals quicker.
How can you build these relationships?
1. Before you attend a networking event find out who the attendees are.
If they have a website visit it to find out more about them. Once you’ve “met” them online it will be easier to approach them at the event.
2. Choose at least 3 people you will approach.
Have your elevator pitch prepared. When you think of your elevator pitch craft it as if someone asked you how you help people. For example you could say I’m __________________ and I help business owners_________________ so they can_______________________. Your elevator pitch should only be about 30 seconds. The person will ask you for more details if your pitch resonated with them.
When you ask someone what he or she does for a living, be attentive. Don’t allow your eyes to dart around the room. Give people the same common courtesy you want.
By listening you can find out how you might be able to help that person. That’s what networking is really all about. Helping people.
Let’s say someone is having a problem building their website. Since you’ve been networking effectively, you’ve built up a referral base. You know someone that could handle that task for them. You’ve now positioned yourself as a resource. When someone needs assistance, you will become the “go-to person.” When someone needs your products and services, you will be the first one that comes to their mind.
Networking is about building a community.
What does a community do? They help each other reach their goals.
When you have a specific plan of action for networking events you will find yourself being less fearful. You will have defined a clear-cut goal.
Once you arrive at the event make that first contact. Having broken the ice, meeting the other individuals on your list will be much easier.
As you can see effectively networking takes preparation. It’s not something that you can haphazardly do and expect results.
What’s one tell tale sign you haven’t prepared?
We’ll discuss that next week.
Here’s a hint: It has to do with your business card.