Does a crowded room full of movers and shakers feel like a nightmare to you? Do you cringe when your boss suggests going to an event after work to drum up leads?
If business networking is equivalent to your first day of high school, keep reading.
I spend an average 3 hours networking each week; sometimes more, rarely less. Over the last 7 years, I have cultivated a unique approach to networking that has not only landed me my dream job but has also generated hundreds of thousands of dollars in business exchanges. I have mastered my ability to attract my ideal connections within the networking realm and am compelled to share the method to my networking madness.
My first rule of networking is to be genuine. Business leaders want to work with people they trust. I primarily network in San Diego and let me tell you, this city is small. I often joke that there are only 2 degrees of separation here and if you rub someone wrong everyone will know. When you are disingenuous other people pick up on it and will often share their opinion of you with other. Do not fake it until you make it while networking with your peers.
My second rule is to be a great listener, not an over-talker. You may be anxious in a room full of like-minded individuals but don’t go on a verbal rampage about your awesome new widget. Don’t be that guy, hiding your nervousness with words. Instead, stuff some cheese in your mouth every time you want to throw your elevator pitch and just listen. You will make a sincere connection with a peer who you are attempting to help rather than sell.
Don’t Go for the Close
Speaking of sales, don’t go for the close while networking. My third rule should be general knowledge but doesn’t seem to be obvious to everyone. The goal of networking is to make connections, have a face to face interaction so you can connect on LinkedIn and follow up afterward. The deal closes post event, after a coffee meeting and some quality conversing takes place.
Be Prompt with Follow-Up
Follow up with every single person you connected with within 24 hours. The fourth rule I follow when networking is to include a personal note on my LinkedIn invitation I send out the following morning. You both have demanding schedules and you want to capitalize on the interaction while it is fresh. You probably don’t want to meet for coffee with every single person, but you do want to connect with them on LinkedIn or with a personal email asking how you can help them.
Always Dress to Impress
Put your best foot forward and dress to impress is my final rule for networking. Your appearance is your first impression so make it a great one. Ladies, save the stilettos for the weekend, especially if you need a pedicure. Men, make sure your suit is breathable and your sweat stained armpits are covered. Scientific research shows you are being judged by how you appear so show up presenting the best you possible.
Get Ready to Mingle
The key to navigating a crowded room is to make as many connections as you can. You want to go up to groups of people, listen, politely introduce yourself when appropriate, exchange business cards and then move on. Everyone at a networking event has their own agenda; some to vent about their boss, others to sell you some kind of multi-level marketing oil, or they work from home and want to meet new friends. You have your work already cut out navigating the agendas, keep the interaction short and sweet and keep on mingling.
Got questions about how to use networking to advance your business? Let me know in the comments below.