Sandy Jones-Kaminski joins the 22nd session of Smart Brand Marketing with your host Tom Libelt.
In this episode we cover how to be authentic when networking, becoming a super-connector and contacting hard to reach people.
Mastering the Art of Networking
One way to describe the world of business is that it can be cut throat if it wants to be. It’s unforgiving, brutal, and completely follows the dog-eat-dog mentality. It’s basically that Cantina in the first Star Wars movie, only with less aliens and lasers.
So how do you survive here? Surprisingly, the same tip to survive in the wild applies here: never stay alone for long. Making friends is a vital skill for any businessman and this can only be achieved through networking. As a matter of fact, it can help you and your business in more ways than one.
So Why Should Your Network?
As with any aspect of a business, you would ask why you should bother with networking in the first place. After all, a lot of people went through their lives without a single friend, so shouldn’t businesses and business owners be afforded the same?
There is nothing actually wrong if you insist on not establishing strong connections in your local market if you don’t want to. However, networking does tend to help you in a number of ways.
Whether you are an employee or a business owner, having friends in the right places tends to quicken your rate of moving through the ranks of an organization or in the local hierarchy. In short, and with no intention of being blatantly scummy about it, having “friends in the right places” can help you reach your goals in the quickest way possible.
The reason this works is that you and those people are effectively trading your assistance in consideration of a reward or the promise of a future help. In other words, if you help other people, those persons will in turn help you when you need it. This chain of people being interdependent of each other will provide you with a lot of opportunities to improve your standing in the local area provided, of course, that you can provide for such needs.
On the side of employees, knowing the right kind of people does increase your chances of moving through the company’s ranks; as much as distasteful as that might sound for some. As a matter of fact, 85% of job openings right now are filled through referrals from networks and most employees in a network tend to have a faster time of getting promoted.
This all means that you should hone your skills in making friends in the local area if you want to improve your standing there.
It is often said that knowledge is power and, in the world of business, that is true. With that in mind, it can be hard to constantly update your knowledge of whatever is going on in the market unless you have a network of people in that area. When you interact with people more, you open yourself up to opportunities of learning more from your market. And the more learn of your market, the less you are to make mistakes in it.
There is also this concept of an “information pool”. When you have more people in your network, you are effectively adding their experiences and expertise into a so-called “pool” where you can draw information from that will help you improve your business.
The best way to take advantage of this is to include your network into a series of support meetings where you and your contacts can gather in one place at agreed dates and then discuss how all of you can improve on your separate ventures. Eventually, people will pitch in which will give every person a new perspective on how to tackle things.
Expanding the Business
As with career advancements, having the right kind of people in your network can help your business grow. Your contacts have their own contacts which may have needs that you can provide for. On the flip side, you might have concerns running your business and one of your contacts might now someone who can help you with.
It’s basically a never-ending cycle when it comes to networking. You meet people who you can provide services to which, in turn, allow you to meet more people who can help and seek assistance to in the future.
This is what makes networking a far more reliable venture than purely online communications. By actually helping people with their needs, you build lasting relationships which, in turn help you expand on your business considerably.
How to do Networking Right
With such benefits available for you in networking, it goes without saying that you need to improve on your networking efforts. Fortunately, networking is not that hard provided that you get the basics right. As such, there are a few things that you have to keep in mind in order to do networking effectively.
First Impression’s Last
Networking actually bases itself on basic human interactions which always begin with, well, the first impression. If you don’t make a good first impression, you are going to have a hard time convincing those people to start a relationship with you and the business.
For starters, you need to look the part. Since you are not meeting a high-end investor, it’s best that you find a balance between what is professional, flashy, and comfortable to wear when meeting people. It all depends, really, on the occasion where you are going to meet them. If the event calls for something prim and proper, then wear it. If not, then your cleanest shirt will do.
Next are your social graces. Keep in mind that this is a working relationship so you can’t go too far in showing the “slobbier” side of you. Make the impression that you are someone dependable and reliable with a bit of casual friendliness on the side.
Time Always Matter
Time is a perishable commodity. Once you have wasted it, there is no reusing it. As such, make sure that you use your time wisely when meeting other people. For instance, you have to make sure that the people you are meeting will be there in that event in the first place so you don’t waste your time going there.
On the flip side, you should also try to not waste the time of others. One big mistake that people often do is “monopolizing” the time of others which is another way of saying that you don’t know how to end a conversation. Keep your talks with contacts short yet purposeful and master the ability to walk away from a conversation once it has ended. This way, you don’t annoy your would-be contacts or leave them hanging.
Remember the Names
It’s a fault that is easy to make but one that can have serious repercussions. This is why name tags and business cards are important in networking events as they help people recognize you and remember your name once the event is over.
Here’s a simple yet effective tip to remember somebody’s name: Use it at least once or twice in a conversation. Not only will this subconsciously tell your brain to remember this little bit of detail regarding that person, it also helps you look more sincere and engaged towards other people.
Avoid Small Talk
A massive time-waster when it comes to networking is small talk. Sure, things like what happened at the last Superbowl or spoilers in Infinity War are good for opening a conversation and easing up people but they can’t be the core subject of that dialogue if you want to establish connections. Such conversations are fit for colleagues and friends at the water cooler, not for potential networking contacts.
So as not to waste time, do your research before attending any event so you have some topics to talk about with other people. Things like current involves involving a company or even the basic information of the people you want to connect to are information that you would rather want to know beforehand if you want to speed up things. Also, pay attention to whatever the person is saying to you in your conversation. After all, a lot of people like to talk about themselves.
So, you just had a pleasant conversation with that person. Now what? This is where your ability to excuse yourself out of the conversation will become vital. Nobody is going to tell you that the conversation is over because, well, that is not a human thing to do so it’s up to you to identify when a conversation has reached its ending phase and prepare yourself to bail out.
The most common excuse that people use is that they need to go to the bathroom, fill up their plate, or go to wherever someone is waving at them. All of these excuses are valid as they subtly tell the other people part of the conversation that you have something else important to do.
The point here is that you know when to cut a conversation short so that it won’t get too long or pointless that it suddenly becomes awkward for everybody else to end it. It also helps if you actually head to the direction of wherever your excuse is so that people won’t get the idea that you’re just trying to get yourself out of the situation.
Is There Such a Thing as Over-Networking?
The short answer is yes. The thing with networking is that, just like any activity out there, is that it becomes too stressful on your part if you do it too much.
So, when does networking become more of a burden on your part? Here are three signs.
Your Correspondence Sounds…Off
At first, all of your chats and emails with your potential networks were lively. However, as time passes, they start to become scripted, transactional, and even forced. It’s as if you’re treating your contacts less as friends and more like investors to your business of sorts.
The only way to deal with this is to reinvigorate your writing style and be more cautious so as not to sound insincere. Also, your focus should be more about building trust with your current contacts than adding more and more people to the group when it is not necessary.
You Spend Less Time on Your Projects
Now, networking is a supplementary initiative on your business which means it shouldn’t take more than what is necessary from you when it comes to your time. The only way to address this issue is by finding a balance between your management of the business and the networking efforts you have. Take the time to run your business first and determine if you have spare time to meet your contacts.
You Absolutely LOATHE Going to another Networking Event
This is perhaps the most obvious effect of over-networking. You know you have gone overboard with networking if you sound less and less enthusiastic when going to every networking opportunity on your time table.
The remedy for this: reduce your networking efforts while picking the ones that matter the most. This will help you keep from spreading yourself too thinly in the industry while still keeping yourself in the know with what is going on outside of your business.
To Wrap Things Up
Networking is not exactly as straightforward as you want it to be. There are times when you think that you are not doing enough and there will be moments when you feel that you are over exerting yourself.
However, always remember this: succeeding in networking is not about just making a lot of friends. It’s about steadily acquiring social capital for your business, a resource that can ultimately assist you in improving on your business in the long run.
Seeing that it is both an art and a science, you should have some sort of method to your madness. You stick to a plan to meet your goals and recognize when you are overdoing or undergoing it. If done right, you might just meet the right kind of people that is going to help your business remain competitive in the market for as long as possible.
What other networking strategies do you know? Are there are difficulties you have encountered when you tried to network for your business? The comments section down below is always open for discussions.
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