For many, networking seems a bit confusing, but it doesn’t have to be! The art of networking is that it’s a way of life. It’s about making real connections with people. Genuine connections.
Trust and friendship are part and parcel of any good networking approach just like any meaningful relationship you’ve developed in your life. Sometimes you just have to give without expecting anything in return. Sound familiar?
Let’s take a look at the art of networking for entrepreneurs. Following are 5 ways to help you prepare for that next encounter. Discover how to expand your network to change your startup’s trajectory, (and possibly your life), for the better.
1. Be Open
The first thing to remember is to be open and eager when meeting new contacts. While you may feel that you’re the one looking for the more experienced and knowledgeable connection to help you get a leg up, remember that for someone less experienced that may just be you.
2. Tell a Good Story
Also remember to tell your story. You’re story is not only your business experience, but where you’re from and what you went through to get to where you are. If you tell interesting or even funny things about yourself, people will remember that story before they remember your name.
3. Be a Good Listener
On the other hand, successful networking involves actively listening to other people. Show everyone the same level of interest and ask them about their own story. If you listen to their story and ask them questions about their own experience and background, you’ll come across as a genuine type of person. Sincerity, as we all know, is a great quality to have in business, (and life), and one it can be difficult to find. Set yourself apart by being a sincere businessperson who actually pays attention to what other people have to say rather than simply waiting for your turn to talk.
4. Be Yourself!
This leads to next point, which is to be genuine with whomever you meet. It’s been said over and over that the people with the widest networks are the people who are the same person whether they are with friends, family, or their business contacts. Being helpful, open, and consistent shouldn’t be characteristics you exhibit only with your close friends or family.
5. Take the Time
Networking isn’t about chance. Sometimes you get lucky and happen to meet or be introduced to an incredible contact, but that’s not the norm. Take the time and the energy to make a list of people you’d like to contact. Maybe you want to send them a short (not a long-winded multi-paragraph explanation) email introducing yourself.
Bonus Pro Networking Tip
If you receive an email response from a potential contact and they’ve sent a positive reply, pick up the phone and call them right back. Just tell them that you were in the office and decided to respond with a call.
Also, remember that taking the initiative to pick up the phone to introduce yourself and asking them if they have time to talk (remember to ask for permission to continue – “would you like to hear more?”) works well too.
As with any skill, networking is something you need to practice in order to improve. You’ll find your groove the more you get out there and involve yourself.
Remember that you’ve got a lot to offer and the networking world is better because you’ll be participating in it. Offer your time and an ear to those around you and you’ll find your network growing quicker than you could’ve imagined!