How many times have you been told that as a business owner, networking is vital to your success? I know I’ve heard this many times. And yet, do we really understand the key to networking successfully, and getting the best return for our networking efforts?
Over the years, while I’ve had a certain natural ‘flair’ for networking, I didn’t have a specific purpose or a true understanding of why I was networking, let alone whether my results could have been improved. I just did what others did with no real purpose, because that’s all I knew.
It’s only been in more recent years that I’ve learnt the true art of networking – not only understanding why we network, but also appreciating the mindset we need to have and that building relationships is definitely one of the major keys to our success. It’s helped me become more strategic in my networking efforts.
I think Robert Kiyosaki sums it up nicely. He says “The richest people in the world create networks. Everyone else looks for work”.
Kiyosaki was referring to the understanding we need to have about human behaviour – unless people get to know us and build up a level of trust with us we will never be truly successful in our networking efforts – we will only end up exhausting ourselves in looking for work.
Think about this for a moment. If you were looking to employ someone to help you out with a specific business project are you just going to pick a random organisation out of the phone book or are you more likely to ask your network for referrals? Are you more likely to trust a stranger or trust someone that your network has referred on to you? When you trust your network then you’ll always take the referral – every time.
Networking provides the opportunity for you to build trust and relationships with others and the quickest way to do that is to approach networking with the mindset that by helping others grow in their business you will grow in your own business too. I take on the belief that there is plenty of opportunity for all of us out there, and if we support one another in growing our business then we will become known and trusted and as a result our own ability to grow our business will come from the referrals of those that have learnt to trust us. The more trusted relationships you build the bigger the potential networks you have access to.
You can only ever improve your networking results by getting out there and taking action. So keep showing up, keep putting yourself out there and giving things a go. When you see yourself as a ‘constant and never ending improvement’ then you are more willing to accept what hasn’t worked and then try something else. Human nature means we are often reluctant to move outside our comfort zone and for many, networking is exactly that – outside our comfort zone. So just show up – start with that because that’s the only way you are going to learn. If you view networking as ‘hard work’ then it will always be that. Instead why not view networking as the opportunity to connect, learn, support and grow? Because if you do then your results will reflect that. You can only learn how to build relationships by meeting new people and getting to know them.
You may find some of the following tips useful:
- Be consistent to your core brand. Know what your brand stands for, what the core values are and always BE that. When you are showing up consistently in all areas of your business, in a way that is aligned to the core of your brand, this helps people get to know you and those that know and like you will learn to trust you – because you are always showing up consistently. And this is how relationships and referrals happen. I’m surprised at how many business owners don’t pay much attention to this aspect of business yet it is the foundation on which you build your brand. So if it’s been a while since you looked at what your brand stands for then do the exercise as it’s worth it.
- Know that networking is not a ‘quick fix’. If you are looking for quick results then don’t bother networking. Because building trust and relationships takes time. Try something else.
- Know why you want to network. There are countless reasons why people network. When you know what outcomes you are looking for from networking then this can help you identify where you need to hang out, what kinds of conversations you need to be having and with whom.
- Model those that network successfully. Do you know someone that networks successfully? That gets the results that you want? Then seek them out, learn as much as you can about their strategies and model that. In my experience most successful networkers (and business people) are only too willing to share what they know and how it’s worked for them because they believe that there is room for all of us. Listen, learn, take what works for you and leave the rest. And then pay it forward to others.
- Always have business cards on you. Get into the habit of always having business cards on you. And make sure your business cards say what you do. I’ve been known to hand out business cards to cashiers in the supermarket as a result of having a conversation! I’m constantly curious about what makes people tick and I love to connect with people. And sometimes that turns into business – and sometimes not – and that’s all okay with me.
- Say thank you for the referrals – they are GOLD. Do you really appreciate how incredibly trusting it is for someone to refer your business? When you think about it, the person who is referring you onto someone else is saying ‘I trust you to do the right thing by me and this other person, because you’ve done the right thing by me’. So make sure you thank the person who is referring you on, and know that it’s another level of trust that is being given to you. Ask yourself ‘am I showing my appreciation for my referrals’?
- Are you memorable? Do you stand out when meeting new people? Or do you trot out the same old boring speech? Be creative when someone asks you what you do. Your aim is to have them curious to hear more and when they walk away from you they remember you – for all the right reasons. Known in some circles as your ‘elevator speech’ you only have a short time to capture someone’s attention so make sure you are clear on what problem you solve and how you do that. And this takes practice – so practice!
- What makes you unique? What is your point of difference from your competitors? What’s your unique selling proposition? What great value do you deliver that sets you apart from your competitors?
- Establish some networking goals. Like any strategy it is important to know what outcomes you are looking for and in what timeframe. I knew someone that would network two or three times each week and his aim was to obtain two coffee chats each week. He went about purposefully building relationships and over time he achieved these results consistently. That was due in part because he was prepared to make adjustments along the way and he remained persistent. So, what are the goals you are looking for from networking? How are you going to evaluate and measure your success?
- Be a great listener! As a professional coach I learnt the important art of truly listening to others. And it took time to learn! Because while we think we might be great listeners we are often distracted by our own thoughts and priorities. So, learn to really listen to someone and to ask questions – be curious! Give someone your undivided attention and stop being distracted by whoever else comes into the room. By focusing fully on the person sends a powerful message to them that they are the most important person in that moment. And that is a great way to be memorable and build trust.
I hope this has been helpful to you and remember…there are some great resources out there to help you learn to build your business through successful networking. So as you learn and grow then help others do the same by paying it forward.
Enjoy your networking journey!
PS – I’ll leave you with this thought:
“If you always aim to create a win-win situation with every encounter you have, you will quickly be regarded as a true networker”. Robyn Henderson.