Ten years ago or more there was a well known phrase that was used among business owners and individuals which was: It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.
Today, owning and operating a franchise of any kind requires you to go beyond this, if you are to continue to create and maintain the “top of mind” awareness among peers, associates and the larger local marketplace. Networking today now goes beyond who you know…..
It’s all about who knows you!
For much of my business life I have known the importance of networking. Although I knew the importance of it, I avoided networking as much as I could in the early days, and back then always described myself as a poor networker. The thought of going to a networking event created more nerves in me than meeting my mother in law, and literally scared me to death. I have always been a very confident person, passionate about what I do and believe 100% in what I and my company stands for, however unsure of how to start conversations, trying to overcome the fear of rejection and not knowing exactly what I was supposed to do once I met someone and got their business card, kick started a journey of learning the secrets to successful networking.
I have been described as a great networker by many of my associates and now with more tools in my toolbox, networking is something I look forward to rather than something I shy away from. The most important thing I focus on is making networking as efficient and effective as possible, ensuring I get maximum results in a short amount of time.
Let me share with you some great tips that have helped me along the way.
Networking is about building relationships.
Networking currently accounts for 87% of business in the marketplace. Yet many people neglect networking and fail to see it as a vital business and career building skill. Networking should be part of your daily, weekly or monthly activities just like any other business development activity you currently undertake.
Anyone can network with the exception of those who just don’t like people at all.
Referral marketing is the best way to build your business.
Your approach to networking is just as important as what you actually do. Starting with the right attitude and with minimum expectations will help you start off on the right foot. Like anything the more practice you do, the better you will eventually get.
For networking to work I have learnt that it’s important to do these three things.
If you’re not getting the results you want from networking, first check that you’re really doing all three of these steps properly, then work on ways to maximize your results within each one of them.
Before you even shake one hand, it’s important you prepare yourself, both mentally and verbally.
This one is about your attitude about networking, your mindset. Always be upbeat, positive, enthusiastic and realistic.
Making Connections- Introducing Yourself
Once you’re prepared, you’re ready to start making connections with people and there are multiple ways to do that. It all starts with introducing yourself.
You will have a limited time to get your message across so it’s important to create an introduction that will grab peoples’ attention enough for them to remember you. Not only do you require the skill to accurately describe who you are and what you’re looking for, it’s important to say it in such a way that other people can understand it enough to be able to tell others.
How to Introduce Yourself
Remember, you’re not going to make the sale and close the deal with your introduction. All you can really do is capture enough attention and interest to keep the conversation going. So stick to the basics and keep it short. You can go into much more detail after you’ve gotten someone’s attention, when they ask you for more information. But to get there, you need to get across three things first:
- Your name (and company name if appropriate)
- Your specialty and its benefit (how it helps the person hiring you)
- And your target (who ideally you would like to speak with)
Unless you are a natural networker, networking can seem like alot of work.
Consistent efforts will eventually produce results.
Networking doesn’t stop there. Once you’ve made those initial connections, the next thing you have to work on is strengthening them. The best opportunities come from people who know you, trust you and like you. It’s difficult to get to that point after a 5-minute conversation at an event. You need to follow up and meet with contacts offline, then you have to stay top of mind.
Be sure you collect as many business cards as possible
as the networking event is just the beginning!
Events are good for the initial connection, but you have to build on that. You don’t have to follow up with everyone you meet, but there are three easy categories to focus on:
- Follow up with anyone who could be a client. That’s a no brainer.
- Follow up with people who are in your target space, maybe they’re in your field, but don’t do what you do. Or they target the same target audience. Perhaps you can help each other out
- Third, you may want to follow up with anyone who just plain impresses you. It’s good to know those kinds of people and have them in your network.
Get a business card. The best way to do this is to combine it with a conversation ender like mentioned earlier. Say “By the way, before I go, can I have your card?” Then email them the next day. Say you enjoyed meeting them and wondered if they’d like to get together for a coffee to learn more about each other and explore ways to help each other out. Position meetings this way you will find no one ever says no, because the meeting is about the two of you and not just about you. That’s important to remember when you’re asking for meetings.
Remember, you need to follow up with people if you want to build a relationship with them. Speaking to them for 5 or 10 minutes at an event is not enough time to form a lasting bond. Until you follow up and meet one-on-one, you’ll just be a business card to them and not a real person.
Key elements of a Good Networker
A Good Networker:
- Has two ears and one mouth.
- Asks questions and gets to know the other person.
- Gives without expectation
- Has an aim to add value
- Has an abundant mindset- there is plenty of business out there for everyone.
- Can form meaningful relationships and communicate their ideas.
- Carries business cards at all times
Tips for Successful Networking
- Limit your memberships to two or three groups. Don’t spread yourself too thin. Maximize your experience by going for depth of involvement.
- Attend meetings and events regularly. Build a base of support with regular members and position yourself with new members as someone in the know.
- Build great bridges! Every day people are missing chances to do business, largely because they don’t take the time to build a relationship with or even get to know the person.
- Listening and asking more questions.
- Arrive at meetings and networking events at least 15 minutes before the actual starting time
- Introduce yourself with your name and the company you are from
- Ask about the person first and listen intently. Most people want to talk about themselves.
- Make sure you get as many business cards from all those you meet
- Speak with one person at a time or at least a small group of no more than three
- End conversations gracefully
- Make sure you follow up with the contact soon after the event
- Do something with the cards you collected…..put them into your database
- Always thank people for sending referrals
- Manage your time well
Making Continuous Improvements
When I first started networking to build my business, my efforts were slightly unfocused. I spread my memberships across a numerous organizations, rarely attending more than one or two meetings, if that. I’d attend random networking events because friends had invited me. In hindsight, all of those activities were necessary to help me build my skills and understand how to network smarter today.
With networking, I’ve found that it’s not the one big event that changes the course of a business. It’s the small steps that are taken consistently.
Think of all the steps you’ve taken, along many different paths to connect with all the different people now in your network. Some of those paths led to business, to friendships, and some have yet to reach a destination. Take one of these 5 steps listed below, down one of those unfinished paths, and see where it may lead
1) Make that follow up call.
2) Forward an article.
3) Warm up an old connection.
4) Spend more time with one of your networking groups.
5) Find someone in your network to collaborate with.
Strive for continuous improvement in your networking. One small step for you could mean a giant leap for your business or career.