People often join business networking groups for the wrong reasons. New business owners join in the hopes of getting their name out there. For others, it may be a knee-jerk reaction to business being slow. Selfishness will not work when it comes to networking. If you don't embrace the "you must give to get" philosophy, you won't succeed in a business networking group!
Simply embracing that philosophy is not enough, however. If you're part of a business networking group, there are a few additional things you need to know if you want to become a "power networker".
10 Steps to Becoming a Power Networker:
- Realize that it’s Net WORK - Power networkers WORK at it. They incorporate time into their busy schedules to think about who they know and how people in their network can help each other. They look for opportunities to share content and articles of interest to the people in their network. It takes WORK. I can assure you that a little bit of work will go a long way and will yield big results.
- Play "Matchmaker" - Now that you've joined a business networking group, you have a new responsibility... to match up people who can do business with each other or who can refer business to one another. ADD THIS TO YOUR CALENDAR! Set aside some time each week to think about who you can match up within your network. Make the introductions. Set an easy, attainable goal. One that YOU can achieve!
- Set Goals - Set a goal before attending each networking event. How many new people do you want to meet? How many referrals do you want to give? If you’re just starting out, set a goal of one per week... or one per event. Once you've done that, bump the next one up to two. As you achieve each goal, increase the number for the next event. As you attain your goal, you'll feel good. You've succeeded. It's empowering. You'll find yourself looking forward to that next event!
- Develop a System - Have a system for starting conversations, for meeting with people the first time, for making introductions and for following up. Don't confuse having a system with the need to be rigid. You simply need a defined set of steps to use as a guide. What techniques work best for you? Use those at every single opportunity at every single event.
- Quit Trying to Sell - Don't go to your next networking event thinking that the next person you shake hands with will be your next "mark", your next customer or client. You'll be tuned out immediately. More importantly, you'll have just lost an opportunity to add another "sales person" to your list.
- Give Before You Get - People can smell a selfish networker a mile away. Don’t go to your next networking meeting or event with your hand out. Instead of sitting there waiting for your next referral, start listening... intently. Learn about those in your circle or group. Listen to those you talk to. Strive to help those within your network. Make THAT your priority. Your efforts will pay off. You'll soon begin reaping the rewards.
- Be Interesting - Most people have been told that you need an elevator pitch to use when you meet someone at a networking event. The problem is that the way MOST people do it is ineffective... and actually, quite boring. Ever hear this? “Hi, I’m John, I’m an attorney and I help people with their legal problems…” or “Hi, I’m John with (insert business name here), and we specialize in blah... blah... yada... yada..." If you’re doing this, you’re boring and forgettable. I could write an entire article on how to construct a good 60 second elevator speech. In fact, I think I will. For now, know that a good elevator speech must have a "hook", communicate your "passion", be no longer than 60 seconds, and end with a "request". Ask them for a business card. Ask them out to lunch. Ask them if they'd like a copy of your latest newsletter.
- Make Yourself Easy to Refer - When you reach the point where people are comfortable with you, they'll ask “Who’s a good prospect for you?” If your answer is generic and you say “Anyone who does (fill in the blank)", you’ve just severely damaged your opportunity for a referral. Make a "Top 10 People I'd like to Help" list and hand it out. Be specific. Tell them the type of person and/or the type of position within a company that the person holds. List the ways you can help and/or the types of problems you solve.
- Purge Your Network - If you have people in your network who take... and take... and take, without giving something in return, cut the ties. Don’t waste time on people who don’t understand the reciprocal nature of networking. You can tell pretty quickly how the relationship will go during that initial conversation. If you’re asking all the questions and all they do is talk about themselves without trying to learn about you, then you know it'll be a one-sided relationship. It's OK to quickly and quietly move on.
- Be Appreciative. Say "Thank You"! When you get a referral from someone, show some gratitude. This is also a good way to connect the person who provided the referral with someone in YOUR network! Send a note and include a gift card, or a coupon, or a small gift from someone in your network that they may not have done business with.
Effective networking isn't just the exchange of business cards and contact information. It takes time. It takes patience. It takes practice. It requires diligence. Remember... it's work!
By incorporating the 10 points outlined above, you'll soon be on your way to becoming a well respected, "Power Networker"!
William Wells is a social media coach and speaker. For information on this and other business networking and social media topics visit him online and connect.