Networking is an essential aspect of building relationships in business, and it's not just about exchanging business cards and making sales pitches. Effective networking requires genuine connection and meaningful engagement with other professionals. In fact, according to a survey by LinkedIn, 85% of jobs are filled through networking, making it a vital part of any career strategy.
Tips for Networking Like a Pro:
- Listen and ask questions.
One important element of successful networking is active listening. When engaging with other professionals, it's crucial to focus on listening more than talking. By actively listening, you can gain valuable insights into their needs, goals, and challenges. This information can help you to identify ways to add value to their business, and potentially form mutually beneficial partnerships.
Ask questions that follow the conversation and show an interest in the person you are speaking with. Don't get caught up in your prepared questions, and be willing to share information about yourself when asked. However, remember to direct the conversation back to the other person if you find yourself talking too much.
- Networking Events are NOT Sales Events
Networking is all about making connections with others. However, it's important to remember that it's not the time to make sales pitches. People attend networking events to learn and meet new contacts. If there is a possibility of discussing business further, schedule a separate meeting with them. The focus should be on making connections, not on making sales.
- Come Prepared
Another key factor in networking is preparation. Before attending any event, research the attendees and the topics that will be discussed. This will help you to identify people you want to connect with, and give you a better idea of how you can add value to the conversations. It's also essential to have a clear understanding of your own goals and objectives for attending the event, and be prepared to articulate them clearly when you meet new people.
- Have a "back pocket question."
It is also important to have a "back pocket question" ready in case the conversation stagnates. This could be a question about recent news or a topic related to the event you are attending. Avoid controversial topics such as politics or religion.
- Have a plan to exit a dud conversation.
Excuse yourself politely by signaling another networking partner to come and get you or inviting yourself to get another drink, visit the bathroom, etc.
- Use designated pockets for business cards.
To make things easier after the event, choose two pockets in your purse or pants and designate them as "Needs follow-up" and "Other." Put the business cards in the appropriate pocket.
- Have an elevator pitch ready.
An elevator pitch is a short and sweet introduction to yourself and your business. It should be practiced and ready to go. For example, "We help small businesses market like a billion-dollar business... but on a small business budget..." or "We eliminate stupid tasks through automation!". If someone seems like a prospect, invite them to a virtual coffee connection to continue the conversation.
- Dress appropriately and make a statement.
Dress comfortably but with a twist. Choose a statement piece of clothing or jewelry that relates to your business and can serve as a conversation starter. This could be a scarf, brooch, tie, or tie-pin. Make sure the piece is something that represents your personality and is comfortable to wear throughout the event.
- Explore Online Venues
In addition to traditional in-person networking events, online networking has become increasingly popular in recent years. Social media platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter can be powerful tools for building professional relationships and expanding your network. By sharing relevant content, engaging in conversations, and connecting with others in your industry, you can establish yourself as a thought leader and build a strong online presence.
- Follow Up
Another important aspect of effective networking is follow-up. After attending an event or meeting someone new, it's essential to follow up with a thank-you note or email, and to stay in touch over time. By nurturing these relationships, you can build a network of contacts who can help you to achieve your career goals.
In conclusion, networking is about making meaningful connections with others. Remember to listen, ask questions, and avoid launching into a sales pitch. Have a "back pocket question" ready in case the conversation stalls, and designate two pockets for business cards. Practice your elevator pitch and choose a statement piece of clothing or jewelry that represents your personality and relates to your business. By following these tips, you can network like a pro and make meaningful connections with others in your industry.