Networking 101: Back to the Basics

March 16, 2017

Networking is not about selling. Instead, networking is about building relationships and trust. It’s easy to get caught in the idea that networking is selling but that concept is a myth. Everyone in a firm is responsible for networking as it should be a vital component of their job, although some employees play a larger role in networking.

There are people who dread networking events and people who love them. The first series of this blog includes the basic components of networking (Networking 101). The next blog will be Networking 201, so make sure to stay tuned so you can take your networking skills to the next level.

Networking is a neat business tool, because it can truly take place anywhere. It’s really about communicating with another person, so you are networking and building relationships every time you engage with someone. There are informal and formal settings for networking that occur in your business. You can be standing in line at a coffee shop and strike up a conversation with the person in line, which leads to meeting someone new. Other informal places you can network include restaurants, bars, gyms, or children’s sporting events, among others. More formal places to network would include trade shows, conferences, social mixers (local Chamber, Business Journal, Young Professionals, etc.), education or training, award ceremonies, ribbon cuttings, business open houses, and other events held by industry associations or your local chamber. Finding an event to attend every day is highly possible!

However, attending an event every day is probably not a good strategy for networking, because you are most likely busy with other responsibilities in your job. Be selective and strategic in your networking efforts, so you see payoff in attending them. As a principal, project manager, project architect, business developer, marketer, or other position that part of your job responsibility is discovering new business opportunities, find organizations and associations that your clients are involved and attend those events. Being visible to your clients and prospects as much as possible to build those relationships and add value to what they are doing.

Networking is 100% about the other person. It’s not about you. Listen and ask open ended questions, so you can learn more about the person and how you can help them. Theoretically, you should be talking 30% of the time allowing you to communicate what you are looking for and how you could potentially help them. By finding a win-win relationship through conversation, you can find the right people to network with and bring business in the door.

There are 4 steps to effectively networking which include:

  • Creating Win-Win Relationship
  • Connecting
  • Consistency
  • Following Up and Thanking

Each of these are essential in becoming a successful networker. Creating win-win relationships allows both you and the person you are networking with to walk away with valuable information. This may be that each of you are in the same market, prospecting the same type of clients or maybe it’s a mentor/mentee relationship. It’s all about asking questions and discovering how you can help one another. Discovering how you can both get something out of the professional relationship is crucial to a continued, successful relationship with that person.

Connecting not with just one another but utilizing your entire network of people you already know. If you are aware of a connection with the person you just met with one of your connections that could help them, then introduce them. People appreciate you thinking of them and helping grow their business and network.

Consistency is the most important factor in networking. You can’t show up one time and expect to see life changing results. You must consistently attend events, follow up, and stay in front of your clients and prospects. Consistently be a resource and help them with their challenges. If this requires you to set up reminders, document in a CRM database, or create a spreadsheet, then by all means do it!

Following up is instrumental in your character, but also shows you are dependable. When you tell someone you are going to do something, it is imperative for you to follow through and complete that request. Add them to LinkedIn or write them a handwritten thank you card. The personal touch goes a long way and is memorable. Be thankful. If someone refers or connects you with someone, make sure you thank them. This can be a handwritten thank you card, an email, taking them to lunch, or inviting them to a networking event.

Networking is a very selfless act and too few people are talented in this arena. However, with some focused attention and practice, you can become a successful networker in your career. Here is the follow up blog on Networking 201 – Advanced Networker.

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