Hello SOTGC community,
Networking has been a critical component of my success – or should I say the relationships I have fostered through networking have been critical to my success. Yet, I feel like so many professionals are confused about what networking really is. This blog post is a three part series that addresses the Who, What, Where, When, and Why of Networking. It is geared towards teaching the reader how to network successfully and how to have fun and enjoy networking.
There seem to be hundreds of formal “networking” groups out there with new ones forming daily. I could easily fill my entire workday simply by accepting every networking group invitation that comes across my desk. While networking is an essential component to building a successful business, we must pick and choose how we devote our time carefully.
Who do you want to meet or add to your network? The obvious answer is probably prospects or clients, but who are these clients? Are they small businesses, large corporations or individuals? Do they belong to a specific industry or have a specific job title? More importantly, I would ask who is already in their circle of influence that could eventually give you a warm introduction. Finding a referral partner that is in a complimentary field where you can regularly make referrals and exchange leads with one another will increase the longevity of your pipeline. Simply meeting a prospective client directly may lead to business, but is less likely to generate the long-term benefits that a trusted referral partner can provide.
Evaluate who attends which networking events to determine the right fit for you. In addition to just noting the basics such as what industries attend the group, get to know the individuals to ensure that you are like-minded. It will be difficult to connect and build relationships with people that do not share your general values, methodologies, or general interests. Try and establish a personal connection by discussing topics other than work. For example, you may meet someone that likes to do the same sports that you do, you may have both traveled to Europe last year or you might have both been born in the same home town. Establishing a personal connection will make conversations flow easier the next time you meet and will help you remember one another. Additionally, I cannot emphasize how important it is to meet with others individually or in a small group outside of the networking event setting. Invite the people you meet to coffee or lunch to learn more about who they are and how you can be of assistance to them. I believe strongly in the philosophy of “give before you get”. Ask the person you are meeting with how you can help them? Also keep in mind that a referral does not have to be an introduction to a potential client. I introduced my CPA to my business attorney and they have been able to exchange several client referrals. I always try to offer something of value to the person I am meeting during our conversation. Usually the value I contribute isn’t monetary and comes from either my personal experiences, my relationships with others, or my knowledge. For example, sharing where I took my prep course for the real estate exam, making an introduction, or even sharing the website where I booked my last vacation at a 60% discount are all valuable.
Also, observe the group leader or leadership team. Look to see that they are guiding the group in a direction that you want to go. Notice their professionalism when it comes to responding to inquiries about the group, making newcomers feel comfortable at events, and how they treat their colleagues. Are they professional, courteous and timely? More often than not, group leaders attract members that are like themselves.
When deciding to join a new networking group, take the time to really get to know who you will be interacting with. Make sure that you enjoy being around the members, that they are the types of professionals that can provide introductions to your ideal client, and that they are like-minded with strong leadership. Not only will this help you experience success while networking, but it will allow you to build real relationships and enjoy interacting with the people you meet.