We all know that networking is essential for most business professionals. It is also a key skill that many successful entrepreneurs have fine tuned over many years and this has helped them build world class businesses. In many instances it has also helped raise billions in venture capital and other financing rounds.
Where most people make mistakes is valuing your number of connections rather than the strength and quality of your business relationships. There are also several obstacles which can impinge the success of networking but here are a few recommendations on how to handle these situations.
FEELING TOO AWKWARD
Not everyone is brimming with confidence and it’s a common mis-conception that all business owners and consultants are confident. On the contrary, many of the most successful business personalities are often quite the opposite.
It helps to practice with a friend or career consultant, building confidence when introducing yourself and talking about your career. But remember, one of the keys to being a successful networker can often be down to listening as well as asking questions about the other person.
Most people are keen to share their experience and what they’ve learned in the industry, especially at networking events.
Always prepare for events or situations where networking is on the agenda; practising your “elevator pitch” builds confidence and allows you to quickly relay your products or services the people you’re meeting.
OPEN ENDED QUESTIONS AND DEAD ENDS!
Create a list of open-ended questions and review it before the networking event. Have a few questions in the back of your mind that you can pull out when there’s a silence. We have all used yes or no questions and quickly found ourselves in a dead-end. Awkward!
YOU CAN ALWAYS LEAVE! REMEMBER THAT!
If you feel uncomfortable for any reason – perhaps the person opposite is rude or disengaged, thank the contact and leave the conversation.
FOCUS ON VALUABLE INFORMATION
Sometimes we get stuck with the chatterbox! You know the one. The person who never stops talking and has no focus. Always be prepared to politely refocus the conversation. Without interrupting, at the end of them making their point, it’s always useful (and a great piece of exit planning) to say you don’t want to take too much of their time. Then ask the question that you want them to answer.
ASKING FOR THE JOB/BUSINESS.
Networking is all about the development of relationships. Too many people make the mistake of thinking it is there to generate immediate business or perhaps job opportunities. It is not.
The best networkers know that business (and jobs) come once you’ve developed and strengthened your relationships. Take the time to learn more about the person you’re talking to.
IT’S ALL IN THE “FOLLOW UP”
Keeping it fresh is the name of the game. Often this can be simply sending a note to check-in every now and again. Easy “check-ins” include a thank you note following a meeting or a note to update your contact on progress, based on advice you got from them.
WRITING THINGS DOWN!
Keeping a record of calls, meetings and conversations is a really important routine that good networkers have. Whilst a spreadsheet is ok, there is a plethora of CRMs out there like Active Campaign, Capsule, Hubspot and Pipedrive.
Many of these CRMs allow you to research industries and organisations.
Ian Wright is the CEO and Founder of Virtualnonexecs.com – a global boardroom networking community for non-executive directors. He is also Founder and CEO of Board.Ai – an algorithmic weekly networking platform for professionals and business owners.