Networking can be a very powerful phenomenon; however your success will depend on two important facts:
It is important to understand that this advice can be applicable to anyone looking to advance their career as an entrepreneur or as an individual working within a company. In fact, as a business leader and owner of a company, I would encourage you to share with your employee’s knowledge on how they can grow their network exponentially.
Without purpose, networking has no tangible benefit. It is important to ask yourself anytime you are in the process of networking why you are there in the first place. Why are you spending $75 for a ticket and four hours of your time to attend a networking event? Is it to gain knowledge and develop yourself personally? Is it to share knowledge and give back to a certain community? Is it to build relationships with someone within your business’ target market (with the intention to generate more clients and increase sales)? Are you looking to build relationships with potential investors? Make sure you have one purpose so when you are attending an event, you can accomplish what you are there for.
If you value your time as an entrepreneur at $100/hour (as a minimum I hope), including fuel costs, then you are investing $500 of your time to attend a four hour event. Please do not leave empty handed.
Gaining knowledge and developing personally
If you are looking to gain knowledge and develop yourself personally, make sure you are spending time with the right person (at most 2-3 people) that can help you learn what you are looking for. Be honest with them, and tell them why you would like to speak to them. You will be surprised with the number of people that wholeheartedly want to help. Build that initial relationship, exchange your business cards, and ask them if they would like to grab a coffee next week. Follow up by email the next day. This is not dating; you do not need to play hard to get. You are looking to learn from them and ideally offer your knowledge in exchange.
I recently attended Small Business BC’s Inspire event where Christine Day was the keynote. She was an amazing speaker and I had set a goal to meet her, but I wanted to invest time to listen to what she had to say to get to know what she values and further understand her story. I followed up with her executive assistant the next day, and after months of back and forth communication, we set up a meeting. I had one purpose, one goal, and made it happen. The amount of knowledge gained in that one hour meeting was invaluable and I am forever thankful for her time. It allowed me to report back to my team at 505-Junk and make our most strategic decision to date: whether to expand by franchising or through corporately operated divisions.
Building relationships within your business’ target market
If you are looking to build relationships with new potential clients, make sure you are attending the right events. If you are selling your new accounting software to small businesses, for example, then attend events that are full of entrepreneurs that own and operate small businesses. As an entrepreneur, you could spend forty hours per week “networking” with the amount of events that you are invited to. Choose the right ones, and make a positive first impression.
The same applies if you’re looking for investors, or whatever your intention is. Be honest with your intentions. If you are in a room full of high net worth individuals and venture capitalists, tell them your story (hopefully in thirty seconds) and that you are looking to build relationships with potential investors. Exchange your business cards, and follow up for a coffee. See the pattern?
They say that a lot of life is based on “who you know”. This has a lot of truth to it, however let’s not mix up knowing someone personally where you both value the relationship with taking a selfie and claiming best friend status. In fact, asking for a selfie may in fact destroy your relationship right off the bat. Be real with people and in return they will be real with you. Build that relationship on a personal level.
When you establish that relationship on a personal level, people will be comfortable with “referring” you to their extended network. If success can often times be dependent on “who you know”, then it can be multiplied by one simple formula:
Who you know X Who they know
Now that you have that relationship, you can further research who they know and be very intentional about who you would like to meet. This goes two ways. Who do you know that you can introduce to other people? If you work collectively as a team, rather than every person for them self, than you have a much greater opportunity of growing together. That is what a relationship is all about. Are two people, together, better off than being by themselves? If the answer is yes, then you have a win-win relationship, if the answer is no, then one person may feel reluctant to help you. In the case of a mentorship, it is a different story where one individual is willing to invest their time to give back and support someone. However this post is not about “growing your mentors exponentially”.
The key take away about networking is building valuable relationships, maintaining those relationships while ensuring they are a win-win scenario, and creating new opportunities together to further advance yourself and your business.
Written By: Barry Hartman, Co-Founder and CEO at 505-Junk, email@example.com
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