Networking can be a catalyst to business success as you meet new people and make business connections in a relaxed setting. A full 70% of jobs are found through networking, and 40% of job seekers say they found their dream job through a personal connection. But what is networking really about?
Let me start this by telling you a story.
From the get go with my previous employer, I was attending networking events at least once a week for almost 6 months. I was building my confidence and my people skills, plus I was in a more professional setting which was completely new to me. I started by watching people, others styles of communication, how they talk to others or try to sell themselves. The truth is, so many people were just pitching to everybody that they saw and providing absolutely no value. People were shutting off from these people and the pitches were falling on deaf ears. Why? Because nobody likes to be sold to.
I thought I would try a different approach once I started at Fruitworks. As a content marketer, I am a firm believer of providing value to my prospects and every interaction had an actionable tip – usually about marketing a business. At networking groups, I began to introduce myself with an actionable tip, and then tell others what I do. I’ve written a 30-page ebook telling others how to do my job and given it out for free, simply to provide value and gain respect from other networkers (and show that I do know what I’m talking about).
I then started to get into presenting at networking events, it’s not as scary as others think and is huge confidence booster. Once again, I started giving people advice on how to market their business on a low (or no) budget and not only was I demonstrating my knowledge, I was giving away information for free. As I was providing value, others would engage in conversation with me, asking me questions which then gave me ammo for my blogs (any question asked is a blog!). More conversations were started, and more people began to remember me and what I do in a good way, not because I was directly selling what I do. People actually asked me what I do because they wanted to know, not because the information was forced on them. More opportunities began to come my way from job offers, public speaking at events and now an “Ask The Expert” panel spot at Social Day UK. I even believe that I got a spot in Kent’s Top 30 Under 30 because I had been networking and had met the judges, albeit briefly (I cannot confirm this). Although I only jumped onto the marketing scene in early 2015, I am steadily growing my personal brand and also Fruitworks’ brand. Others are beginning to see us as a useful resource for business & startup advice.
Today’s world is primarily digital, no amount of selfies or status updates or even emails can convey your personality or skills in the same way that networking in person can, but you need to come across in the correct way. When you are helpful, you come across as more likeable. You don’t even have to give people information like I did, but instead connect the other person with someone who may be able to help or just generally helping someone out. It does take time to build a good rapport with people, you can’t just attend and then not appear for months on end, you have to be consistent.
- When talking to someone, listen 75% of the time speak for only 25%.
- Ask the other person questions about them, people love talking about themselves!
- Provide value with every interaction, don’t make people feel like they’re being sold to!
- Give a firm handshake.
- Arrive early or on time, it looks unprofessional (and you look unreliable) if you are late.
- Don’t just speak to people you know, get out of your comfort zone and speak to new people!
- Always speak to the person stood on their own, you wouldn’t want it to be you, right?
- Speak to everyone, they may not be a potential customer but they could recommend you to a friend.
- Unless you have a good memory, take notes about everyone you speak to and their business. Writing things down helps you remember things better, plus you can always refer back.
- All of this can also be applied to Social Networks like LinkedIn.
- Always follow up on new contacts.
Networking will not work if you are just trying to zap information from others or if you’re constantly trying to sell your product or service.