Networking with other like-minded individuals can be fun and profitable. In fact, it should be both.
Many of you might have the old scene in your mind of a bunch of disagreeable folks standing around with cocktails and the occasional cigarette trying their hardest to be agreeable. The Real Housewives of Orange County come to mind.
Others may think of sleazy backroom deals being made through a wink and a nod, a handshake and the passing of the obligatory business card.
True – this is one face of networking, but I am sure it is not the face you want. Me either!
1. Be Authentic.
Always remember, true networking is about being authentic and genuine.
Let me say that a different way. In order to successfully network in our day and age, people are not looking for fake, made up, all- about- me people. They are looking for “real” people, who present themselves in an authentic, down to earth manner without need for inflated talk or personal claims.
When networking, it is important that you add value. It is not about selling your product or services. It is about making meaningful connections. Be yourself and look to connect in a genuine, personal way.
2. Build trust and relationships.
A genuine, caring attitude goes a long way towards building trust with people. Trust is built through repeated exposure. That means you shouldn’t try to “close the deal” in the first meeting. In fact, I believe networking time isn’t about closing deals, but about setting up appointments or phone calls to talk and get to know each other better.
Relationships come from the building of trust. They are the natural product of two people or organizations that have spent time together getting to know each other’s desires and needs.
The old saying is true: “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”
3. Be able to articulate what you do and how you desire to help others.
Some folks call this the “elevator speech.” The idea is to give a canned response to the question “So Susie, what do you do?”
While I firmly believe that you must have a deep understanding of what you or your organization does and how you can help others with their needs, I also believe that this must free flow from your heart and not sound, look and feel canned or contrived.
The best way for this to happen is for you to focus on how you can help the person or persons you are networking with. The spotlight should shine on them and you should be seen as a partner in their success. Articulate from this place and you will find more acceptance for what you have to offer.
4. Follow through.
So, you have spent time networking, being authentic, building trust and forming relationships. You get a lead on someone or some group that wants to talk about the possibility of partnering with you – it’s now time to follow through quickly and efficiently.
When people give you their trust it becomes a reflection on them. They want that trust validated. The best way to validate trust is to display your interest and care by following up.
Respond with email or a physical note concerning your enjoyment in meeting them. If an appointment has not been set, call to set it. If it has, call to confirm it. Your follow through will have a lasting impact. It will be a feather in your cap when you sit down to talk about working together.
According to Dictionary.com, networking is defined as a “supportive system of sharing information and services among individuals and groups having a common interest.
I like that definition, especially the word “supportive.” The best networking is done when individuals and groups find ways to support each other around a common interest.
Do these – and you are doing it right!
What is the best tip you have found to work in networking situations?