I have a confession to make …I’ve never liked networking. Just thinking of going to an event and attempt awkward conversation with strangers …made me nauseous.
But that’s changed in the last couple of months…
Having to launch my brand in the US market meant I needed to create new relationships. This wasn’t going to happen creating online strategies and “hiding” behind my computer but rather through networking like crazy. The results have been life changing for me. In the last few months, I’ve made some amazing personal and professional connections that have enriched my life in countless ways.
Here are some networking lessons I’ve learnt along the way…
Change your mindset. I, like many others saw networking as being somewhat fake…attempting to “use” others for personal gain. Rather see it as the greatest opportunity to enhance your circle of influence, enriching your life whilst creating new business opportunities. Don’t be a Best Kept Secret.
Give before you take. Take the spotlight off you and put it on them. It’s not about what you want from them but rather in what ways can you support them first. When you show authentic interest in someone they become more interested in you. Listen more than you speak.
LOOK like Success. If you want the million Rand job/deal – look like a million Rand! Trust me, sometimes this has taken me a couple of hours to achieve but the effort was worth it!
Meet your potential clients in NON-professional places. Find out your typical client’s interests. Is it golf or specific charity fundraisers? I recently met an influential connector at an exclusive wine club… wine + client = BONUS
Have an “Ask”. Don’t be tongue tied when people ask you “In what way can I support you?” Know exactly what your need is. When I’m asked this in some form or another, I’m really specific and say, “I’m looking to connect with decision makers who want their teams to project powerful impressions that will impact on sales. Design your “Ask”.
Follow up the next day with each person that you promised you would. Consistency is key for your networking reputation. If you’re like me – if you don’t do it the next day, you forget about it. In turn they forget you!
Be different. Don’t just hand out business cards…ask if you can take a selfie together (use judgment and discretion for this). The following day text them the photo, saying something like, ”Enjoyed your valuable insights last night about ______ (be specific). When are you available to discuss____(be specific)?” Very few people can resist looking at a message with their picture attached and… this time you’re in it. Does this keep you top of mind? Does it make you stand out from the crowd? You bet it does!
Stop NET-hiding and start NET-working.