The Power of a Strong Network
What kind of impression are you making in the first 30 seconds of meeting someone new?
That is the most powerful question you should be asking yourself when you have a goal to expand your network and drive more business to your bottom line. Successful entrepreneurs and corporate executives have one thing in common: They enjoy a robust network.
In fact, those who are well-networked are typically three times more influential than those who aren't. The most common complaint I hear from professionals trying to grow their business is how awkward and time-consuming networking can be for them.
Networking is and always will be an essential part of advancing your career. If you are new to networking, or frustrated with the results you are getting from the time you invest in networking, here are 10 tips that will help you see the results you want:
Positive Mindset. Networking is a skill to be developed. Too many people have anxiety or stress over networking. They may feel nervous about entering a room full of strangers. I have found when people make up their mind for success, they achieve it. Whether we are an introvert or extrovert, we all can develop this skill and be great at it. What we believe will manifest into reality. Check your beliefs – they need to be in line with the outcome for which you are looking.
Play Detective. Doing research prior to entering any networking scenario is a game-changer. I recommend formally budgeting time on your calendar to prepare. When you network one-on-one, Google the person’s name before your meeting, check out the website of the company they work for, connect with them on LinkedIn and read their profile. You may find they published an article, recently got a promotion and so much more. Prepare questions from the information you gathered. This can be a starting point for a great conversation. If you are attending a networking event, review the attendee list (often shared if asked) and select two or three people you want to meet. Ask the event organizers to assist you.
Practice your introduction. Be concise, passionate and relatable. Don’t be afraid to use adjectives in your introduction such as frustrated, overwhelmed, disappointed or concerned. The right story and examples will help you be compelling and memorable.
Give, serve, support. A savvy networker understands this universal rule and seeks opportunities to add value to others. They are great listeners and doers and have zero expectation of getting anything in return. And because of that they receive tenfold.
Build a rapport. Rapport happens when small talk is effortless and fun. Being exceptional at small talk takes skill and practice. How we respond to questions such as “How is business?” or “How are you doing?” is critical to building our personal brand. Responses with short answers such as “slow” or “busy” are not interesting. Try something such as, “Business is doing well! This week I started three new projects that are looking extremely profitable.” Or, ”I am excited to take my business to the next level by accepting a speaking engagement.” These types of responses provoke interest, questions and help people engage more easily.
Don’t sell. Understand that networking is not selling. It is simply the catalyst in building relationships. Find common areas to discuss. Great relationships reap rewards. Two of my favorite quotes are: “No one who achieves success does so without the help of others” – Alfred North Whitehead; and “Begin with the End in Mind” – Steven Covey’s "7 Habits of Highly Effective People."
Utilize social media effectively. In today’s world, our social media channels (i.e. Facebook, Instagram, etc.) are quickly growing to include our family, friends and even colleagues and peers. Social media is a great tool for networking but be mindful of what you post so that you don’t offend or build walls. Before you post anything, take a moment and ask yourself how the post might be received. Often your answer is right. Follow your instincts.
Get organized. Use a Contact Management System such as Microsoft Outlook. This platform offers a tool to enter all your contacts. Discipline yourself to write notes about the last interaction you had and calendar a date to follow up.
Follow up. Staying top of mind is one of the keys to success. Those who make the effort to follow-up will stand out and enjoy a healthy network of people they can count on when they need something. I call this human capital. Calling on people only when you need something can be a setback in a relationship. Focus on adding value to your network. I find when I bring two people together and make an introduction that can add value to both, it reaps rewards. I also enjoy writing hand-written notes that include a message about something the person and I spoke about or I recognize a strength they have and compliment them for it. Being authentic and genuine is critical.
Get involved. Don’t overload yourself with too many networking events or opportunities. First focus on creating your inner circle and become known as a trusted advisor.
Never forget, your net worth is only as good as your network. At your next networking event, think about how you can add value. When you build a community of industry-leaders around you, that community will play a pivotal role in your own success.
Be patient. Creating a network takes time.
Angela Kubisky is the executive vice president of membership and marketing at the Morris County Chamber of Commerce. To learn more about the chamber or view upcoming networking events, please visit www.morrischamber.org