Networking- An Oopportunity To Transform Lives
Business networking is built around that old saying, it’s not what you know it’s who you know. But what happens if you don’t actually know that many people yet? Perhaps you’re new to business or you’ve never given much thought to developing your network. Whatever your situation, here are 7 simple things you can do to grow your network.
1 - Think differently
When it comes to networking many people tend to get stuck in the old-world view that its sole purpose is to find new business. So wthey can go to an event with an outdated ‘always be closing’ sales mentality. Not only does it make the prospect of networking unappealing if you expect to be on the receiving end of the hard sell, it can also mean that you’re inadvertently putting people off getting to know you better.
Instead, remember that networking is at its core simply building new relationships. The aim of a networking event is getting to know people and understanding what they and their business are all about. If you happen to have a conversations that turns into business, fantastic! But that isn’t the true purpose of networking so try to approach it as meeting a new group of friends, not potential clients.
2 - Attend events
If you want to meet new people, you have to get out there! You might have been attending the same networking event for months, which is perfect for allowing those relationships to grow, but you benefit from meeting new people from time to time as well. Ask your existing connections if they can recommend some events you might be interested in, look on Meetup for groups of like-minded people, or check Eventbrite for events in your areas of interest. Make sure your netwokr is not too homogenous and expand your horizons.
Plus, this doesn’t have to be only business or networking events. You never know where you might connect with people, so following your interests is an excellent way to meet other like-minded contacts.
3 - Or host your own
Hosting an event is a great way to bring like-minded people to you! This can be around business building, networking, or an area of personal interest like a book club or wine-tasting night. Get the word out there through your existing networking, social media, and event websites (with free listing options available) and see who you might meet on the day.
4 - Ask existing contacts
Previously I have shared tips for asking for referrals, and that’s not the only thing you can ask your network for. Rather than asking for potential business, ask your existing network if there’s anyone they can connect you with because you have similar interests, or opportunities to collaborate, are in the same industry, or just because they think you might get along.
Networking is all about getting to know people, so think about the people you’d like more of in your life and ask your friends for an introduction.
5 - Look online
With platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and industry forums, a great deal of networking happens online. You can join groups on Facebook or LinkedIn that align with your interests (business or otherwise) and use hashtags on Twitter to join in conversations that interest you. These online communities are very active and you will often find yourself in conversation with similar people. Don’t be afraid to send them a direct message if you’d like to connect, and be sure to personalise it so they understand why you’re looking to connect - even if it’s as simple as ‘we both love a good latte.’
6 - Always provide value
Providing value for free is commonly offered as advice to build your business and it also applies to networking. The idea is it gives people the opportunity to get to know you and what you have to offer before they commit to doing business with you. It builds that know, like, and trust factor, creating a strong foundation for a possible business relationship and reducing the perceived risk of entering into new business arrangements.
Similarly, in network building, being generous with your time and advice allows people to understand what you’re about and connect with your values. And as with point 4 above, allowing people to get a feel for you can open up opportunities for them to connect you with like-minded people. The only caveat with this is put boundaries around how much time you can offer - after all, we are in business and giving all of our time away will not a successful business make!
7 - Be yourself
It’s very easy in business to get caught up in what we think we should be or do - what we think our clients are looking for, what a business person is supposed to look like, how everyone else is doing things. At the end of the day, though, people won’t connect with you if you’re not being your authentic self. Sure, many lawyers work in a suit, but maybe by doing business in jeans you’ll find people drawn to you who find corporate settings intimidating.
So when you’re attending new events and getting involved in forum discussions online, always be yourself. Offer your opinions honestly and respectfully and chat like you would to a friend. By doing so you’ll naturally ‘click’ with the right people as you get to know one another.
If you need some help in building a networking strategy or boosting your confidenee when you talk about your business, or want to understand the benefits of networking plerase reach out to me. I have been running networking for over 6 yearsand have helped people enjoy networking as they grow their business. They have learnt how to make networking an everyday part of life, not just something you need to do at business events.
Do you have any tips to add that you’ve used to grow your network? Share them in the comments!