Perhaps you find traditional networking efforts to be ineffective. You either run low on time and miss out on finding quality connections, or you leave a networking event with a stack of business cards but no solid relationships to work on.
Networking in business doesn’t have to be that way.
Tips for Networking with Entrepreneurs
To benefit from the power of networking, try these six unconventional strategies to strengthen your networking skills and nurture a powerful network.
1. Narrow Your Community
Before you attend any networking event, do some preliminary research and fact-gathering. Find out more about the audience who’ll be in attendance. Are they good prospects?
For instance, if you offer pageantry services in the beauty and fashion industry, then going to the RISE Conference probably won’t land you closer to your ideal clientele. Then when you find the right networking events, understand their interests so you can start a smart conversation.
2. Use the “Rule of Sevens”
To become a power networker, it’s important to practice efficient styles of communication. Essentially, it helps to believe that you only have seven seconds to make you first impression, 14 seconds to develop interest, and 21 seconds to tell your story and form an impact.
Power Tip: Practice it in the mirror or record yourself and ask a trusted friend or colleague to provide a constructive feedback.
3. Networking Should be Strategic
You might think that a rendezvous with a stranger is only meant for blind dates, but a chance meeting with a potential stranger might take him to your friend list. It is essential to understand that merely growing the number of people in your digital circle is not enough. You need to examine the kind of people you are interacting with and ensure that you are associating with the right ones. The end result of networking should always be to build powerful connections with like-minded people who can help you grow.
To expand on this point, Michael Kawula, an entrepreneur whose last 3 businesses each hit 7 figures in under 3 years, has devised a 3-step networking strategy that will help you make meaningful connections:
“Step 1: Before the Event
Do some prep work and reach out to those you’d like to connect with on Twitter ahead of time. This will help you build more Twitter followers and build warm connections. Make sure to continue networking prior to the event.
Step 2: At the Event
If you did step 1 properly, you’ll be a magnet, with people coming up to you at the event starting conversations (which even introverts can handle).
Step 3: The Morning After
Follow up on Social Media, with email and/or the phone to continue the relationship.
Following this three-step networking strategy, you’ll build meaningful relationships, unlike any other individual.”
4. Stay Connected
It's essential to develop and maintain a constant relationship with contacts because they can convert into milestones for your business and career development. Every six months or so, do an “audit” of your professional ties. Look at your list of contacts and ask yourself: Is it still accurate? Who should I add? Who is no longer quite as relevant?
Over time, you will cycle people and “recycle” others in and out of your network. Bringing new people into your circle and staying in touch with longtime contacts shouldn’t feel like a balancing act, you should continuously mix old and new whenever and wherever possible. This boosts your visibility and opens relationships that may have stagnated overtime.
5. Present Something Valuable
Neil Fogarty, founder of Spark Global Business, says that people contact him regularly to ask to book a meeting with his friend Richard Branson.
In one of his recent blog posts, Fogarty mentioned, “No hello; no explanation as to why, just introduce me to Richard Branson,” to which he asked a question from the readers: “Am I likely to help?”
Fogarty says it’s crucial to offer something first of value before asking a networking contact for any favor.
It is advisable to not offer something random. Take time and get to know the person you are interacting with so what you offer is truly useful.
6. Don’t Rush into Sales Mode
Michele Lawson, entrepreneur and author of Unleash Your Networking Mojo says:
“When you’re networking, you’re not just seeking new customers for your product; you’re seeking new business partners, future employees, and valuable advisors. If you make it all about selling, you’ll miss out on valuable relationships and tips for business development. Work on establishing trust first before you go for the sale.”
Remember, you’re only at the networking event to make business connections, not recruit investors or solicit customers. Don’t use your tried-and-true sales pitch when you’re networking with fellow entrepreneurs. Instead of talking solely about your business, talk about your ideas and the interests you have in common. Ask questions and most importantly, listen to the views of others. Let the conversation develop into a relationship. Practice these networking skills and you’ll discover the power and benefits of networking in business.
Our guest author Shivankit Arora is a growth hacker and the founder of startup marketing agency, MarketingMasala.com. You can read more about growth hacking on his blog.