If you think that networking is: (1) something you’ve outgrown; (2) pushy, pathetic or painful; (3) about just exchanging business cards; or (4) not working for you–then today could be a life-changing day.
Here are some tips for better networking.
First, network all the time, everywhere and with everyone. Before you pass out a business card, send information, or overwhelm a prospect with your knowledge or substance, you have to connect–to build a relationship.
Have you ever gone to a networking function and seen someone holding a fresh stack of his business cards in one hand as he hands them out like a Las Vegas dealer? No doubt, most of those business cards ended up in the trash because there was no connection first. Why should I care about your card when I don’t know who you are?
How do you define networking? It’s not just meeting and greeting. It’s not collecting shoeboxes full of business cards. It’s not pushing. It’s not selling. In fact, it’s helping. My favorite definition is: Networking is building long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationships for information exchange.
Let’s examine that definition. Building long-lasting relationships means keeping in touch, finding common interests, showing respect, building trust–all the factors that it takes to build, maintain and nurture every relationship.
Building mutually beneficial relationships means giving as well as getting. That means asking, “What can I do for you? How can I be helpful to you and your business? Who are your clients? Whom can I refer to you?”
One reason people don’t like to network is because they are givers, and some people with whom they network are takers. After a while, takers use you up. Don’t be one of those takers. Remember to give value to your networking partners.
Networking is for information exchange. That could be leads. That could be industry updates. That could be where to get the best pizza. We network for many reasons. It could be professional or personal. It’s not selling; it’s helping.
My Four Best Ideas
1. Play the host. Wherever you are, act as if it’s your party. If you invited diverse people to your home who didn’t necessarily know each other, you wouldn’t sit in the corner and hope they met each other. You’d introduce them to each other, find something they have in common, and put them at ease.
I find that most people are shy, so when you play the host, help them over that hurdle. Put them at ease and you’ll be memorable. Also, it gives you a role to play. When you go into a room of strangers with a role, you’re more at ease and able to meet and connect with people.
If you’re seated at a table where you don’t know everyone, play the host and suggest you go around the table and introduce yourselves. You’ll put everyone at ease and be considered a leader.
2. Be visible. Be active in every group you’re a part of. Who here likes to speak in public? Do more of this. Who here writes articles? You can establish yourself as an expert on life insurance. Introduce a speaker. Blog. Hang out where your clients are.
Ask questions or comment during a session. Give your name, company and location when you speak at a meeting. Stand up to speak. Now someone in the far corner can more easily find you to share ideas after the meeting or session.
3. Follow up. This is where networking often falls down. What do you do to follow up? How many of you write handwritten notes? Since so few people do this, you will stand out. I’ve seen my notes pinned on the bulletin boards in people’s offices.
One tip is to send postcards to clients, contacts, and prospects when you’re at a conference telling them you are learning things that will help them. In fact, you can do that from here. Postcards always get read because they don’t have to be opened. Picture postcards of the location are exciting for people to receive.
4. Get over your fear of rejection. If someone doesn’t want to network with you, which I’ve never seen happen, it’s just a difference in agendas. Or maybe the timing isn’t right. Don’t give up. Just keep in touch in different ways over time. Remember, it takes time to build relationships.
Ten Mistakes to Avoid
There are 10 mistakes you don’t want to make when networking. You already know number 10: Have no more one-night stands. The others.
10: Have no more one-night stands. The others
9. Thinking networking is all about “me.”
8. Not having a plan when you network.