Even though this article is titled “Networking your way to success,” I’d just like to mention here that before my MBA, I despised the word “networking.” When I finished my undergraduate degree, I was advised to “network” to find a job. I interpreted this advice to mean “use people to get a job in your industry.” The thought of this made me cringe.
But now, with a few more years of experience under my belt and a few more names in my virtual kitty, I see that networking is far more nuanced than it appears to be. Networking can be as simple and enjoyable as having lunch with a fellow MBA student, colleague or a friend’s friend. Networking can be arranging a meeting with a person you respect in your industry to learn more about their background. Networking is seeking advice from a mentor or trusted relative. Networking is not just about handing out your business card to everyone in sight in an effort to score a job. It’s a way of creating and maintaining long-lasting relationships with people whose company you enjoy and whose professional interests are in line with your own. Of course, networking is also a powerful job search tool, but in my view, networking is first and foremost about relationship building.
Often people ask me a very basic question. How to start conversation with a complete stranger? A great way to start a conversation is by complimenting someone to. For example, you might say, “By the way Raj that was an excellent presentation you gave today.” Tell someone you like his new car, his shoes, his hair or the way he talks and you will have set the scene for a friendly chat. It is very hard for anyone to resist positive feedback. We all love to hear sincere compliments and we then feel compelled to treat the giver of the compliment favorably.
Too many people go to business events thinking only ‘What’s in it for me?’ or ‘How can I get these people to buy my services or products?’ Or ‘I must sell something (or myself for a job) here or it will be a total waste of time’. The most effective marketing for people in the advice-giving business revolves about giving first and receiving second.
The thoughts below are specifically designed to help you get more response to all your marketing efforts and to attract prospects who are qualified to take advantage of your service.
Thought 1. Give away valuable information
All of your marketing should revolve around this thinking. Articles, reports, surveys, teleclasses and other valuable information gives prospects a real taste of what your business and services are all about. And these days you can distribute this information practically for free via email and the web. Offer an article you have written about your work, your achievement etc to people via email rather than a marketing mail and before too long, hundreds, perhaps thousands of people will know more about you and have a positive association with you. This is because people hate marketing mails, but at the same time, they love to share good source of knowledge.
Thought 2. Share valuable resources
When you make an initial connection with someone, it’s not unusual that you learn of a business issue that person has a challenge with. They may be looking for a new accountant, a new lawnmower or how to a book work with virtual assistants. When you have this knowledge, let them know and follow up after the meeting with an email with the information or an online link. Make it a habit to be a resource and people won’t forget you. Build a reputation for reliability; unfortunately there isn’t a lot of it about.
Thought 3. Give free bonuses with your services and products
A bonus can be an enticement to work with you: “When you book X months of work with me, you’ll also receive a copy of this planning software.” Or “If you book two people onto our seminar by October 1st you’ll get a third place free” or even “If you hire me, you not only get a engineer but also a very good presenter for your seminars or client meets”. However, it’s more than an enticement. It adds real value that can make a difference to your clients or customers. And if it helps them get better results, you get more positive word of mouth.
Everyone wins and your cost is minimal.
Thought 4. Give leads and introductions to clients and associates
People value good leads to potential clients. Sometimes they’ll reciprocate, of course. But a good lead that results in a new client also buys you some access or time with your associate where you can expand your collaboration. When a lead turns into money and the recipient is someone who owns their own business what have done is directly increased that person’s income from your thoughtfulness. This is the action of great networkers.
Ask question like”How will I know if someone I’m talking to will be a good introduction for you?” If you are at a business event and find you know more people than the person you’re talking with, ask “Is there anyone here you’d like an introduction to?” Spend more time on these questions with existing clients and contacts than with new ones. We often forget most of our new referrals come from people we already know. Here there is mutual liking and mutual trust.
Referrals are not one way. When you have a generous spirit ask others questions like “Who do you know who…?” or “Please can you help me? If you were me how would you…?”
Thought 5. Send written and emailed thank-you notes
Good business is conducted in an atmosphere of gratitude. When you give, you’ll also get in return. You’ll also receive valuable information, resources, bonuses and leads. And you want to accept these with an open heart and with thanks. And the best way to make that thanks real is with a hand-written note. Email will do for little things like the exchange of information and resources. But when someone goes out of their way to help you, give you a lead, or assist your business in some way, send a hand-written card.
Remember, networking is not just for getting a new job or investors for your new entrepreneurial idea. That would come later, once you have made and effort to build a relationship with people. If you network with 100 people, chances are, 10 may be of real help to you. But without the 100, you won’t get you 10.
In my next article, I will be discussing about how to effectively use LinkedIn for networking and making the most of this business oriented social network. I would try to provide insights into the tips and tricks of using LinkedIn, on which many people miss out. Keep reading.