Having contacts is very useful for any professional. Knowing the right people can help you develop your business and offer new opportunities. For that reason, networking should be on the social agenda of any leader and entrepreneur as a must do. Attending events, such as summits, conferences, and industry fairs, is the perfect opportunity for networking and getting quality contacts.
But introducing yourself to people and creating a connection might not be the easiest thing for everybody. Therefore, the purpose of this article is to give you some useful tips for successful business networking.
1. Get into the right mindset
Before participating in networking gatherings, make sure you know what your goals are. Besides making business connections in general, you might want to get to know a specific person, or find new members for your team, or get the attention of an investor. Make a plan without getting into too much detail, and follow through.
Getting nervous is something normal for most people, especially if your goals are important for your career or business. But you need to get into the right mindset before putting yourself in the middle of social interactions. Make sure that you know what you have to offer, smile, keep a positive attitude, and treat everyone as your equals.
2. Show interest and build real connections
Don’t take too much space in the discussion talking about yourself, but actually listen to the other person. Show that you are paying attention by asking questions and repeating some of the most interesting facts you are learning about the one standing in front of you. This is how you show people that you are interested in them, which will make them be interested in you in return.
Being authentic and honest is sure to take off some pressure and make things easier. So don’t try to force a relationship based solely on your agenda. Instead, try to behave as if you were just making a friend.
3. Offer more than you ask for
The main question you must repeat inside your head in a networking environment is “How can I help this person?“. Find out enough information about people to help you answers the question. There is no better way of being visible and gain influence than becoming a resource for others.
In order to get there, you first need to find out how you can be useful to the persons you meet, and emphasize on that. Show people why they need you and point out some of the ways in which you, your company, or the services you provide, can help solve their problems.
4. Find common ground
Some people are easier to approach than others. While most people keep a polite attitude in social contexts, not everyone interacts with strangers with the same openness. For hard-to-get people, you need to find an ice-breaker that helps you connect to them on an emotional level.
Ask open-ended questions and try finding some common ground. Maybe you are both fans of the same sports team. Maybe you went to the same university – take the conversation to a personal level to help them open up before you get to more serious stuff, like work and business.
5. Bring a wingman (or woman)
Depending on the context, you might be able to pair up with a friend from another company, or even hire a professional networking sidekick. You and this other person can talk each other up and make a good impression without bragging about yourself. Your sidekick can work the room to put you in a favorable light even before others had the chance to talk to you, making them eager to meet you.
Furthermore, having a friendly face by your side can also take some edge off, and help you relax and be yourself, which is always useful. Making jokes and creating a friendly environment will also help others loosen up and become more open to conversation and collaborations.
6. Use anecdotes
Introducing yourself with a tedious “Hello, I am John, the [insert job title] of [insert company], and I do this and that…” won’t leave a mark on anyone. However, finding an anecdote that resonates with people, and that also brings on some of your accomplishments, is guaranteed to put you in a favorable light and make others remember you and your story.
So start telling people about that time when you called the wrong number and got the biggest contract all by mistake. It will set you apart from the crowd and help them identify with you as a person.
7. Use your connections
Do your homework: research attendees beforehand and remember a few things about each of them. Especially if you have an agenda, or want to impress someone specifically. For example, if you plan to bring someone on board in your company, or offer a business deal.
Leverage on the connections that other people have with each other. Mentioning a former co-worker or an ex-manager that you had in common or a friend with a higher sphere of influence could help you get on the radar and get the other person’s attention.
8. Social media IS networking!
Last but not least, do not forget that social media was created for the exact purpose of networking. Use your Twitter, LinkedIn, and even Facebook profile to find like-minded people from all over the world. There is an enormous potential for collaboration, and it happens more than you might think for people to actually use their social media contacts for business purposes.
Team collaboration apps, such as Hubgets, make distance collaborations not only possible, but even interesting and entertaining. Never underestimate the power of technology in the era of high-speed internet and always find new ways to make it work in your favor!
Once you have created a new contact, keep the relationship warm by finding reasons to follow-up. Send them an email with that article you’ve been telling them about when you met; contact them when you come across opportunities for them or their business, or even invite them out for drinks if you feel that the nature of your new relationship allows it.
To keep a relationship alive, you should find at least two opportunities to contact the other person every year.
Take any opportunity
Since networking is essential in almost any field, try not to miss any opportunity that comes along. Always RSVP to invitations, and make an appearance even if you don’t have a very specific agenda. Don’t give people the opportunity to forget about you!
And remember: you never know where new opportunities may arise.