“Your Network is Your Net Worth.”
Whether you are new to business or have been around for a while, your network is crucial to your success. If no one knows who you are, or what you do, chances are your business won’t go very far. It is very simple to attend networking events and you can find plenty online. We touch on a lot of the do’s and don’ts of networking on our “Why Your Networking Isn’t Working” post, but we will touch on a few things here as well.
The best way to explain networking is this:
Imagine I am a Financial Advisor with a network of 500 people and you are a Business Coach with a network of 300 people. If we get to know each other on a personal level and understand each other’s services the next time someone in my network of 500 people needs a Business Coach, where do you think I am sending them? Likewise, if someone in your network of 300 needs a Financial Advisor there is a very good chance you will send them my way.
But keep in mind networking is a long game, don’t go expecting an immediate sale. It is all about relationship building and helping each other out. It may take months or years to close on a sale but as long as you have a strong system in place to follow up and keep top of mind, it works. (Again, see our post on “Why Your Networking Isn’t Working” to learn how to put a proper system in place.)
How to Network
One easy way to network without leaving your office is cold outreaches on Social Media (LinkedIn, Alignable, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter). This works, but you may only get 1/10 responding if you are lucky. Do not reach out trying to make a sale, do it to offer value and get to know them better. You probably receive those cold e-mails telling you your website is terrible and to use them to build a new one. They send that to 100 people a day knowing their ratio, 99 say no, 1 says yes. Don’t do that, it gives you a bad reputation with the 99 and is not sustainable.
Offering to buy them lunch or coffee is playing the long game, which is what networking is. Networking may lead to an immediate sale but expect it to take a year or not at all. Meet with them to get to know each other, grow your knowledge of their industry and if it’s a fit it will work out. Follow up at an appropriate time and find a way to keep yourself top of mind. Whether that is asking to add them to your social media or newsletter.
Bad Examples in “Networking”
Here are some real-life examples that happened to me:
Example 1: I was at a trade show and had someone come up to me with his business card printed to look like a million-dollar bill. He handed it to me and said “just doing some networking” and walked away. He never got my name, my card…he didn’t even give me a chance to say a word, he just walked away. Guess where that card went.
Example 2: At my first ever networking event I went to I was extremely nervous but I was getting the hang of it quickly. The third person I met gave me his card, told me what he did, said “nice meeting you” and walked away. The same thing, I barely got a word in, he had no idea what my name was and never got my business card. For my first event, I knew that was not how it was done.
These two bad examples should show you that networking is relationship building and a two-way conversation. Ask open-ended questions, go deep, be interested and if it isn’t a fit gracefully exit the conversation.
Where to Find Events
The best way to build your network is to join online groups, attend networking events, chamber of commerce/board of trade events, BNI or meetup groups. To find these events, look under the events tab on Facebook, and search Eventbrite or Meetup for events that seem to fit what you are looking for. If you know who your target market is it will be easier to zone in on which events will be best for you so you are not wasting your time at the wrong events.
Never forget the golden rule of networking, it is about building relationships and offering value. Do not go in there pitching everyone, nobody likes a Salesman or Saleswoman. It will take some time to find the right events and to learn how to do it well, but be yourself and enjoy getting to know new people. Play the long game, follow up and know when to ask for the sale.
- Immediately add your new contact on LinkedIn and/or Facebook and send a follow-up e-mail.
- As you are building your network on those platforms continually post value-based content.
- A vlog post that is talking about new changes in your industry that are relevant to them or a quick one-minute tip.
If you need help organizing your CRM, social media or leads list let us know, that is one of our many specialties.
Derek Burbidge, Manager of Sales & Marketing