Networking is one of those things that doesn’t come easy or natural to everyone.Â Who do you talk to? What do I say? How do I approach people? How long should it take? These are a few of many questions I hear about networking. A lot of individuals have told me how frustrating networking can be and have asked if there’s anything they can do to make the experience easier and more effective. Using my own experience with networking I’ll share a few things that have helped me over the years.
The most important thing about networking is to understand that it takes time. Don’t expect to “score” immediately. You have to think of networking as building a relationship. And a key to developing strong relationships is establishing trust. Put this into a business perspective. It takes years for businesses to establish a strong brand name and earn people’s trust. You’re essentially doing the same thing when you’re building a network. You have to earn someone’s trust and establish credibility for the product/service you’re offering before you can consistently “make a sale.” Until someone learns about me, trusts me and knows what I’m offering, I don’t expect any kind of help from them.
Consistency and frequency are important. You can’t develop a strong relationship with someone if you don’t have some kind of regular quality contact with the other party. I have found that networking is more successful when I join groups that meet on a weekly basis. Naturally, the more consistently and frequently I meet someone, the faster I can develop a rapport with that individual and get to know them better.
Don’t think of someone you meet as only a potential client but also a referral partner. If they don’t intend to use your product/service they may know someone who will. The best referral partners are those with whom you have relationships that are mutually beneficial. At the end of the day, they are looking for the same thing as you. Generally, the best way to get help is if you can return the favor. So try to learn about the other person, listen and ask questions. Try to understand what business they’re in and what they’re looking for. It’s a relationship remember. It’s not all about you and what you’re selling.
In my next post, I will discuss networking for your business in organized groups.