Networking Strategy: Why You Need a Plan to Connect to the Right People
Networking is like a supermarket; you might only actually need milk…but you can end up with a week’s worth of food and walk out without getting what you went in for.
FIrst things first, the emphasis is on connecting to the right people.
If you need milk, don’t walk out with orange juice. Even if this means making a list, and as you learn what people do, writing their names down, do that.
Working on your own is lonely and networking can be good just for camaraderie and idea generation; but it has to be balanced with networking in the right circles.
Something to be considered within this train of thought is where you network. If you’re a Wedding Photographer, you might be better suited to a regularly attending a more personal networking group than one that specialises in B2B. Or seasonally travelling to Wedding Fairs.
The second emphasis is on connecting. More often than not, the people in the room with you won’t be your customers. You are there to build relationships with them so that they connect you with your customers.
Which leads me to the a rare soundbite to hear from a Sales Mindset Coach:
Get yourself OUT of the mindset of selling whilst networking. Growing your network is the goal. (Clue’s in the name!) Let people know what you do, show expertise, get to know people on a personal level. People will not give valuable referrals or recommendations unless they trust you – so establishing trust should be your number one port of call.
Online vs Offline: Networking in a modern business world
Whilst it might be easier and more natural to build trust face-to-face, online networking has a lot of advantages that offline networking doesn’t.
Often you can find people just by using a search bar to filter people through the jobs they do. This means if you’re wanting to connect to plumbers, you can find everyone who has that as their job title on the platform you’re searching. You can also connect to other people in your field who might have opportunities for you.
A Word of Warning Whilst Networking.
Your reputation and behaviour online should be treated in the exact same way as real life, though. Would the very first thing you do when meeting someone be try and sell to them? Then don’t do it online.
You are what you share when it comes to “content curation.” Beware of liking/sharing things that aren’t consistent with your brand or your own values online. These things will appear in other people’s feeds showing that you have liked them.
There’s nothing wrong with supporting others, but too much sharing of content which is irrelevant to your brand can dilute your own message.
Above all, Follow Up
There is no point making initial contact with someone if you never speak to them again. When you really click with someone, offer to buy them lunch, have a video call, invite them to another networking group. Do whatever it takes to move the relationship on to the next step.
Key Points to Consider When Networking
- You get what you give. When was the last time you gave a referral? Think of others when it comes to networking, and others will think of you.
- Learn from other businesses. Where are their pain points in their industries? Can you identify problems as they arise and work out ways to solve them with what you do?
- Online networking vs. Real world networking. There are advantages and disadvantages to both, but your behaviour should remain the same.
- Where’s your intent? Think about your ROI. Set yourself goals to meet a certain amount of people, add a certain amount of connections on LinkedIn, have a certain amount of follow up meetings. N.B. Again, these shouldn’t be sales/income related directly, this is about feeding the top end of the pipeline. Save the sales for later down the line.
- Going where your prospects are going. Especially with EXPOs if you get a stall – sell only where appropriate – and don’t forget there’s your reputation at stake.
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