Top 10 Lists are great! It’s been a thing for David Letterman probably since he was dropping watermelons from rooftops. But the Top 10 concept is definitely a trend. It’s why The Book of Lists is so much fun to read – Top 10 Tallest Buildings, Biggest Bridges, Most Popular Movies, and so on. Of course, The Book of Lists may not be in the Top 10 Best Books to read but perhaps it should be. A different story for a different day.
Then there are lists that speak to the Top 3, Top 5, or whatever the number is.
And are the Top 10 really the top 10? Or Top 3 or 5? Or is this just clever marketing, knowing full well that people really take to numbers and Top whatever on whatever. Follow me?
Well, a client that just hired me to speak at their event wanted to pass around a Top 10 Business Networking Tips sheet to give them a jump start on some approaches they may take at their upcoming conference. Here they are. And yes, they are my Top 10.
Understand What Networking Is
Networking is a proactive (although sometimes reactive) approach to meeting people with the intention of learning about and potentially helping them. If you can. If you like them. If it makes sense. And it doesn’t have to happen right away. Get to know them over time and build a mutually beneficial relationship. (Can you say “mutually beneficial relationship”?) If you help great people get what they want, they help you right back. That’s networking!
Determine Your Specific Purpose
There are really only 5 – More Business, Land a Job, Social Reasons, Learning, and Solving a Specific Problem. That’s it! But it’s important to be specific. For example, what type of business are you looking for? Or what are you interested in learning? What industry, profession, market segment, niche, dynamic, geography, height, weight, perimeter, area, and flavor reflects what you are after? If you can define your intentions right down to the flavor (kidding on the flavor thing of course but you catch my drift!) then you’ll know where to go, what to say, and with whom. See below!
Go to the Right Places
Networking groups, chamber mixers, conferences, conventions, trade shows, product shows, professional associations, industry events, golf outings, sporting events, business lunches, coffee meetings, service groups, fund raising events, entrepreneur round tables, mastermind organizations, women’s groups, men’s groups, social groups, cyclist clubs – the list goes on and on! Pick your particular group and get involved. Make things happen, don’t just show up and expect things to happen. By the way, you don’t need to be a part of a group to be an effective networker but it helps. A lot!
Meet the Right People
Who are your true prospects? (Those that can hire you and have told you they are interested in doing so at some point). Really be specific here. Now, who are your best referral sources? (Those that come in contact with your true prospects all day, every day.) Again, specifics! Do you already have relationships with some of them? Can you connect with those you know and those you want to know through LinkedIn? Do they frequent regular events? If so, see above!
Say the Right Things
Know how to introduce yourself – “Hello, my name is…”. Start off by asking great questions about them. About their work, hobbies, who they know, who they want to know, goals, accomplishments, and fun things they’re up to. (Hint: Ask questions that you would want them to ask of you. Very often, they’ll answer your question and then ask, “How about yourself?”)
Never, Never, Never, Never, Sell!
As in, never. I have a million stories about sales people and business owners looking to pitch their services to those they meet at events. Don’t be one of them! Those you meet at events are potential referral sources. Over time, some may become prospects but those you meet at events are not your prospects. Unless they tell you they are. This is a very fine line so be careful. Savvy networkers smell “hunters” a mile away so again, don’t be one of them.
Make It About Them
Make almost everything you say and ask about them – not you. I find the less you talk about yourself, the more interested people want to know – about you. Effective networking is a WE thing, not a ME thing (or YOU thing). Stick to the right pronoun.
Have an Elevator “Speech”
This is a prepared (not rehearsed or memorized) response to, “What kind of work do you do?” My favorite approach focuses on a 4 step model called PEEC – Profession, Expertise, Environments, and Call to Action. So in essence, give an overview in about 20 seconds on what you do and who you help, your background, target market (those “environments” you want to work in or with, and who you ultimately want to meet or what you want to accomplish (your “call to action”). You can have a one minute version if you need to give a “commercial” at your next mixer.
Without follow up, it’s like you never met the people you met. (Don’t worry, you don’t have to follow up with everyone you meet, just when there is a good reason to do so!)Serious networkers know how to follow up and follow through. This should be established toward the end of your conversation. If it makes sense to reconnect and get into a more in-depth conversation, then ask them about next steps. “Seems we have a lot in common and can potentially help one another with… Let’s exchange business cards and I promise to reconnect with you tomorrow so we can coordinate next steps. Does that work for you?” Just make sure you do what you say and say what you do. Just saying.
Stay in Touch
After getting to know one another, if it makes sense, brainstorm on ways to stay in touch, learn more, develop the relationship, and create added value to the partnership. If you want to. If you’re into that sort of thing. Remember, Out of Sight is Out of Mind (OOSIOOM).