Do you have a hidden networking talent?
After my BNI and chamber experience I realized that I had talent for networking that I never even knew I had. People even posted recommendations on my LinkedIn page saying I was a good networker which blew my mind since I had never thought of myself as a networker.
I had always thought of myself as more of an introvert than an extrovert. What I discovered is putting yourself out there in those environments pushes you and actually encourages you to be much more outgoing. Making yourself go to these events is important and practice makes you a much better networker.
Believe or not networking is not about you. The term “Givers Gain” actually comes from my involvement in BNI and is one of their core philosophies. The idea is that if I help you, you in turn are then much more likely to help me down the road. It is not a short term tactic but is more log term strategy.
For instance, if I am builder and you are an insurance agent, I might arrange a meeting for lunch to introduce myself and what I do. I then might suggest someone that might be in the market for a new insurance agent. The insurance agent in return may suggest one of their new clients that have just moved to the area who is looking to build a new home. Someone is much more likely to do you a favor if you do one for them first.
Networking at its core is relational and interpersonal. It is about creating relationships with people. When you are at a networking event listening is more important than talking. After you listen and a pause occurs, then ask thoughtful questions about their business and who would be their ideal client. Don’t self promote, instead educate them. Talking endlessly about your business is simply going to have the opposite of selling. Find opportunities to discover how their needs and yours might intersect.
Your Business Card
I can say this from firsthand experience do not forget your business cards. Have them on you at all times. Also remember one man’s business card is another man’s trash. Pass them out judicially. Just because you can now get 1000 business cards for 5 bucks does not mean they are confetti. Conversely some experts advise to not give someone your business card unless they specifically request it. In the end it is a judgment call. Your goal is to have a meaningful conversation not to see how many cards you can pass out.
A simple trick to keep you better organized is after you have a meaningful conversation and cards are exchanged take a brief moment later to jot down on the back the date and any memory points that might be useful in the future when you contact them again.
Follow up with valuable content
The number one rule of networking is to follow up. A second might be to follow up again but with meaningful and valuable content. You might relate to them something you spoken about or refer them to a URL, article or blog that you have recently read or written that relates to the subject matter. Create a bridge that will bring them back to you. Ask if it would be okay if you send them things from time to time but do not overwhelm them self promotion.
We welcome your insights into what networking techniques have worked for you in the past. Please feel free to comment below.
ABOUT Reed Dillon - Reed Dillon is the owner of Creative Brand Content, creativebrandcontent.com - a marketing consulting company. Reed has spent the better part of two decades heading the marketing departments of some of the industry’s leading modular manufacturers and earning numerous national marketing awards. Contact can be made at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 540-488-2978.
The blog “How Not To Network: The Worst Network Mistakes” http://www.carolroth.com/blog/networking-mistakes/ was resourced in the writing of this blog.