TEN TOP TIPS : Don’t Just Network – Connect!

Networking. We talk about it; we read about it; we all know what it is. We like the articles, but do they really tell us the ‘how to’ of networking?
Let’s start by changing the term, it is not ‘networking’ it is ‘connecting’. Not everyone is born to be great connector, but everyone can learn and everyone should.
Networking is less about direct selling and more about adding value and creating sustainable relationships.
How do we do this? Well, here in brief are my 10 top tips.

1. Add value Have clear reason for why you are networking, know your objectives. Yes, at the end we all want to do business, but you need to give someone reason to do business with you and your network. How? You add value to them first. You show credibility. How? You do something that will help them or their clients or their business before you even think of explaining how they can help you.

2. Know your hook and elevator pitch This is not sales pitch. These are the words that get someone interested in talking to you. It is how you verbally showcase your passion (business) without the hard sell and showcase your credibility. Think about what you currently say when someone asks “What do you do?”. If you begin by saying, “I’m just a” or you describe your job, you need some training in this area. You need to describe what you do, what your business does for clients, the results and outcomes they experience; rather than who you are and your business process.

3. First impressions count Sounds really dumb but dress and act appropriately. If you feel uncomfortable you will act uncomfortably.

4. Take business cards How else will people know how to contact you or find you? Do not force your card on anyone, but if everyone is at an event or having coffee to ‘connect’ then the swapping of the business cards is ritual and accepted.

5. Be able to make small talk Not everyone can launch into the connecting habit. You need to establish conversation; you need to have something to talk about – even if you scan the day’s news. The best connectors are the ones who ask questions, who genuinely want to help people, who want more information on how to help others.

6. Remember to add value I hear lots of people say “I stopped networking”, or “I left that network because I didn’t get anything out of it”. The question is: “what did you put in?”. Connecting is give first, give consistently, then receive game. It takes time, but it’s worth the investment.

7. Be polite and respectful No one has to talk to you. No one has to listen. Likewise you do not have to talk to others or listen to them. However, be polite at all times, you may find some people boring, but it is not about the immediate person, it is about their entire network.

8. Stop networking one to one You are not trying to do business with the person you are talking to, seriously. If you do, it is short lived and not sustainable. You are adding value to the person you are talking to so you can do business and add value to their entire network. I’d rather have 30 referrals to work with than just one sale. You never know who in their network is going to be in position to add value back to you, your business, your clients, your network.

9. Do not waste time with networks that are not working As long as you have maintained regular attendance, been consistent with your message, added value to others, connected others and nothing has eventuated then move on. Not every event, club, situation will work in with your objectives or your personality. It’s okay to move on.

10. Always follow up, under promise and over deliver Do not be the person with the biggest business card box – that’s not connecting, it’s stamp collecting. Remember to follow up with everyone you meet, and do it regularly. It is this programme of contact that makes your network sustainable and produces results. If you say you will do something then do it. Do it well, do it right and do it ahead of the expectation set.

If you are now thinking “well I do all that and it’s not working” then I assure you you are missing something in your connecting skill set.
I have been there, I have done everything wrong, I have experienced the nervousness, the laughter and the pain. Believe me if you are following the skills correctly it will work, it will be sustainable.

Sarah Lochead-MacMillan is founder of the SLM Group and author of The Naked Networker.

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