What do you think of when I say “networking?”
Maybe you envision a room crammed with thousands of people, and you feel obligated to meet every single of them for fear of missing a shot at a sale.
It might bring up scenes of people throwing business cards at each other, scouring the room for potential new clients in a massive, no-holds-barred pitch-fest.
But both of these scenarios are far from the truth.
Networking isn’t about pitching yourself. It’s not about making sales. Networking is about one thing and one thing ONLY…
It’s a chance to make new friends, expand your horizons, and create mutually beneficial connections with new people.
No more, no less!
Another important fact: networking isn’t a race to meet as many people as possible in a few hours. It’s about meeting the RIGHT people. It’s about making a few mutually beneficial connections, not endearing yourself to every single person you see.
It’s also about remembering that networking isn’t an overnight thing! It takes time to build relationships that lead to new collaborations, new clients, and more sales. So no pressure!
If you have the patience to put in the time and the effort, you’ll get a big-time return on your networking investment. All you have to do right now is get started!
Still, the idea of walking up to a stranger and starting a conversation can feel pretty scary, especially if you’re new to networking. Trust me, I get that.
I’m going to share a few ways to shift your focus, let go of fear and pressure, and actually enjoy the networking game!
But first, let’s talk about why in-person connections matter so much. Why is it worth your time to get out there, push past the awkwardness, and say “hi” to total strangers on the regular?
Because of the one thing at the heart of any successful business: relationships.
People buy from people. Most of us could buy products or services that would fulfill our needs from a lot of different places.
But when it comes time to get out the credit card, it’s the person with whom we connect with the most who usually gets the sale.
Every business is built on relationships. And networking is one of the best ways to get those relationships started!
Solid business relationships are about more than just ideal clients, too. Your friends, colleagues, collaborators, and mentors also make up a significant part of your network.
After all, you are who you hang out with. It’s just as important to surround yourself with the right friends, mentors, and associates as it is to draw in your ideal clients.
So whether it’s clients, influencers, or business besties, relationships are crucial. And they start with genuine, honest-to-goodness networking.
But how do you start building your ultimate business support system? What events do you go to, how do you connect with the right people, and what attitude do you need to keep fear and doubt from stopping you?
Here are a few tips to get the ball rolling…
Know who you want to meet and why. Knowing who you want to connect with at an event is just as important as knowing who your ideal client is. Get a clear picture of that person before you hit your first event.
In my case, my networking plan is to connect with successful entrepreneurs who are willing to share their raw, vulnerable, and authentic stories about their path to success. When I’m out to make new connections, this is the person I have in mind.
Who is that person for you? Get a clear picture, write it out, and set your intentions.
Do your research. Do you have a specific person (or people) that you want to meet at an upcoming event? Do your homework. Research your people of interest before the event so you’ll be ready to meet them face to face.
Remember that you don’t have to meet everyone in one day! Here’s my rule of thumb with networking: set out to make one to two genuine connections per event, per day. That’s it. There’s no need to do more than that. It’s about quality connections, not quantity!
Remember, you don’t have to give your business card to every Tom, Dick, and Harry in the room. If you don’t talk to everyone you intended to, that’s OK! Just try again next time.
Remember, you’re looking for the RIGHT person, not the MOST people.
What’s the best news of all about networking? You don’t even need an event! All you need is to make a connection. That can be done anytime, anywhere.
You can meet people at the airport. In line at Starbucks. At a sporting event. Any time and place can become your own networking event.
What is one of my favorite networking opportunities? Air travel! I’ve met influencers, investors, and future colleagues at 30,000 feet. I once met an investor who contacted Mark Cuban on my behalf. You never know what will happen when you start talking to the person next to you, so just say hello and see where it goes!
(And here’s a hot tip: if you can swing it, it’s worth the money to upgrade to first class. It’s the kind of place where you up your odds of meeting the influencers, so give it some serious consideration!)
Once you know who you want to meet, you have a game plan for your next event. And you’re always on the lookout for new connections no matter where you are.
That begs the next question: how do you actually talk to people?
That is, how do you perk up the nerve to start chatting with a stranger? What do you say, and how do you say it?
Let me offer a few tips to make those ice-breaker moments a lot easier…
Just like sales, networking is serving. Instead of approaching someone new and worrying about what you’re going to say, try asking yourself how you can help them. So shift your focus from your worried mind to the other person’s needs, and go say hello.
Listen more than you talk. The 80/20 rule applies here. Ask questions, listen to the answers, and learn. What’s important to them, what are they looking for, and how can you be of service?
Don’t think about it too much! The biggest connection-killer is overthinking. Sparking a conversation isn’t that hard. All it comes down to is giving genuine compliments, asking sincere questions, and genuinely caring what other people have to say. It’s that simple!
My friend Sean Croxton says, “The riches are in the niches.” I would add this: your relationships have a direct correlation to your top-line revenue.
If you consider it, you’ll find that your most significant deals come from your inner circle. So your network IS that important.
And that the stronger that network becomes, the more likely you’ll receive returns not only for yourself but also for everyone who is part of your world!
But just like Rome, you don’t have to build your network in a day!
Take it one genuine connection at a time, keep making those connections on a regular basis, and before you know it, you’ll have the cornerstone of a solid business.
Here’s my challenge to you: go to one networking event this month and make at least one serious and mutually beneficial connection with ONE person. Just one person.
So what do you say? Leave me a “challenge accepted!” in the comments below, go to your event, then tell me who you met and how it went!
I can’t wait to hear from you!
P.S. Want to learn even MORE more stories, tips, and tricks to get past your fear and become a master of your networking domain? Click here and check out “Networking 101” on this episode Coffee Is For Closers!