Networking – we’re often told that it’s the key to business success, and most of us are conscious that we should be doing more of it. But with the limited time and resources that usually characterize a new entrepreneur, how do we make sure that the connections we’re making are the right ones? How do we form meaningful relationships that will increase our effectiveness and profitability in business?
Talk to any successful business owner and most will agree that when it comes to networking, its quality over quantity. A handful of critical relationships are all you need to get the most out of a strong network. Here are our networking 101 tips – our mini-guide on how to initiate and create relationships that matter for your success.
The key players
Get clear on who you want to connect with and who will add real value to your business. Remember – networking shouldn’t be one-sided. It should be a mutually beneficial experience of give and take. Make a list of the 20 most important professional contacts you have or wish to have. Those are your target connections where you want to concentrate your efforts. The key is to make regular contact that is comfortable and effortless. Don’t make this a formal affair or your relationship can end up being superficial or awkward.
If you want to gain something, you have to have something to offer.
Take the time to identify what your key contacts really need and want. Consider how can you address that need and also gain something for yourself along the way. Focus on what you can offer that will be of benefit to them.
Let your conversations flow naturally and don’t only talk about business. Let the communication flow into your personal hobbies and interests, get to know them on a deeper level – that’s when true connection happens.
Finding a ‘tribe’ in business is just as important as having a strong tribe in your personal life. If you find like-minded organizations and individuals whose vision matches what you want for your own business, you’ll start to create a solid network.
Tip: Target your connections based on what you need. For example, run a business that’s all about empowering women and need a software solution? Hunt down a software company that is certified woman-owned, like Svitla Systems.
Creating relationships with others in the same industry is important. It’s where you’ll find some of the most beneficial relationships.
In the crazy, fast-paced world we work in, you and your business need to have a stand-out value to attract the right kind of attention. If you need to make a connection in a rush, and you’re starting off cold, then sparking that person’s curiosity is a good way to quickly move past barriers and establish a working relationship.
Find the angle that engages people emotionally as your starting point. Be sure that your standard elevator pitch has an emotional element. Although we like to think we’re all very rational, appealing to a business contact on an emotional level can bypass the logical brain and help you establish a connection with their more instinctive side – and that can be a great source of power.
Don’t just pay attention to those that have already achieved the success you desire – learn to spot the rising stars coming up the ranks. Everyone is vying for the contact that occupies the corner office, so why not focus on the person who is fighting to get there? It’s much easier to develop a strong relationship with a future influencer and make yourself part of their journey. Who in your network is going places? Look for those with a strong sense of determination, ambition, and work ethic.
Give your best… with no expectations
A lot of successful networking can start out feeling very one-sided – and that’s because, when it comes to forming meaningful business relationships, you have to put in both effort and action to get the results you’re looking for. Accept the fact that, initially, you may be offering a lot of help without necessarily seeing an immediate return.
Play the long game.
Be generous with your time with that up and comer? They’ll remember you when it’s time to recommend a company or professional for a project. Have you worked hard to develop a healthy relationship with that principal supplier? Then soon you should be the first to know about market opportunities they’ve spotted. The initial phase of establishing connections can feel thankless, but it’s worth investing time in the right people.
Networking successfully is an art, one that you’ll get better with over time. If you start out with the right guiding principles and you’ve picked the right network to cultivate, you’ll definitely experience the transformational results of having a strong tribe. You’ll have insider knowledge and favorable associations with power players.
Don’t get overwhelmed with the thought of networking. It’s simply the process of building relationships. Think of it as less of a stressful endeavor and more of the organic process of getting to know people.