Once an uncomfortable chore, business networking is now a vital part of developing the personality and energy of your brand or business. Not only can you not avoid it, but you now have to embrace it. Or suffer the slings and arrows of your target community.
How about you? Are you a superstar business networking guru?
Yeah, that’s what I thought.
If you are like most people in business, the idea of networking is the least favorite aspect of business or brand development.
But if you have a business of your own or have the responsibility for sales and business development for your company – and aren’t doing it right – here are 5 things you need to know about business networking. So you can relax, do it right and get results. Without completely screwing up.
1. Early on, it will be hard
When you first get started (seriously get started), results will likely not come right away. You might feel like an outsider. That you don’t belong amongst this crowd of people that already appear to know each other. But if you expect results (sales, leads, etc) and don’t get them, you will be disappointed. And you’ll get frustrated. And then you’ll get impatient. All culminating in you coming right out and asking a stranger for something that they are not ready or willing to give you. Not yet.
So you have to be patient. Ask questions about those you are meeting. And find common ground.
2. You have to give to get
For those of you old school folks, the game has changed. When I mentioned asking questions above, I wasn’t referring to:
“So….who do you use for your carpet cleaning needs?”
Of course that’s too direct, right? Our real goal in asking questions is to learn about someone new, to learn who they are looking to meet, what they are trying to accomplish in life and how you can help. Also I mentioned the need to be patient. It’s possible that 75% of your conversations will be about someone else. And if you impatient, this will frustrate you. But if you are patient, smart and curious about people, you will learn a lot about your networking partners. Enough perhaps to help them in some way.
And when you do, there will be a natural pendulum swing back to you, to your needs and your business. The question is how slow will the pendulum swing. It’s not always as quick as you’d like. But if your plan is to go out and get results real soon, you may find people feeling less inclined. And ending conversations with you in an abrupt manner.
3. How you say it is just as important as what you say
Some people take themselves too seriously – they are loud, arrogant and boisterous. Others are just the opposite – quiet, meek and desperate. Your message will be received positively or negatively in part based on the way you present yourself. For example:
You can have a finely tuned and beautifully crafted elevator pitch that stuns your audience. The question is are they stunned and smiling or stunned and thinking “jerk” or are left without any sense of interest in you.
So when you pitch yourself to others, make sure they can hear you (speak up), that you make eye contact (initially and ongoing) and allow the corners of your mouth to venture north (smile). You can send a lot of very positive non-verbal cues that you are not a jerk and in fact are someone others would like to hang out with (be someone, as Bob Burg says, that we know, like and trust).
Is that you?
4. Online social networking is a necessary (not optional) complement
If you are not a powerful social media icon (like most), you might be unsure what role social media sites play (or should play) in your business networking. But let me tell you there is a significant opportunity to enhance and drive your networking success by including an online component.
I’m amazed at the number of people who are still not on LinkedIn and just as amazed that so many are using LinkedIn improperly. They are lazy.
In terms of other social sites like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, it’s really a question of time, industry, resources and many more factors. I think you can create a nice string of business networking successes via LinkedIn and a strong in person networking strategy.
So you can meet new people online and, conveniently, stay in touch over the years. With the help of a social networking plan.
5. You have to remain “present” and stay in touch
But here’s one of the truths. Business networking requires a consistent presence. Success does not come with one event or a a 3 month push to get one thing done.
Success comes when you establish your brand and brand personality with a group of relevant people over time. The result is a growing social credibility. You are a safe person to refer to others.
This way your network grows passively (i.e. you don’t have to work as hard to meet people since they come looking for you). Sound good?
So admit it. You need help with business networking. It’s the first step to success.
Thanks danperry.com for the photo via flickr