Networking Tips – Free and Easy Practises To Get You Off The Ground
Do you need to get your business off the ground or just improve and perfect your networking practises? Below I share several simple, easy and free things you can do. I have been preparing for my next launch over the past year, picking up tips, connecting my dots, from others and many from my own observations of others, along with my own mistakes I have made. So don’t leave any stones unturned.
1. Know What You Do
Develop a succinct, 1-liner, even phrase of what you do. The shorter it is the better. It will be what you reply when people ask you a simple question, “So what do you do Terry?”. This could be your website tagline, as it is referred to in digital marketing. This is best kept short and in an inviting lingo. Your answer should intrigue and pique your recipient’s attention by getting them to ask more. A conversation ensues, where you can then elaborate with longer answers. You want to develop this conversation and exchange into something longer, so give your recipient easy ways to ask for more info. So many times, in my networking events, I overhear people “boiling the ocean” on the first answer. That is what immediately turns off the recipient, making their eyes roll or makes them think that you are desperate. In the early days, that may have been me also. But if you begin your first answer with the long reply, you may lose their attention as they shut you out.
2. Know Your Why
Understand fully WHY you are doing what you are doing, wether delivering a product, service or just you. Know what you and your business stand for. Your WHY is your anchor point and everything you do with your business or service should revolve and connect to your WHY. If it doesn’t then it may indicate you are going astray and need to get back on track.
3. Have a Business Card
I can’t tell you how many times I have seen, and continue to see today, 2 people who just met, at some event, and stumble around with excuses of not having any biz cards on them – probably because they don’t have any business cards. And if looking for paper to write on wasn’t bad enough, they also engage the national guard to find a pen to write with. So much precious networking time is lost doing this. And what a big distraction this is to the flow of ideas in connecting. With a business card, it takes but 5 seconds to exchange and the discussion on more important things, like your WHY, can continue.
4. Have a Website
A website is the virtual YOU, when you just cannot be with someone “in-person”, like at 3 am (we’re talking global connections here). Your website is available 24/7/365. Thanks to social media, having a website is more mandatory than ever. Your social media is like a dragnet, a funnel, a magnet, and should draw everyone to your website, the virtual YOU. Websites are almost free, easy to maintain, flexible and you can access them from anywhere, to keep it updated and current. Today, with wifi and cell phone data plans, websites carry all your advertising material, to the world.
5. Have an Email
Make it easy for people to contact you. Email is one of those easy ways. Everyone should have an email. If you have a domain name already, for your website, then use the email tied to your domain name as it advertises you, your business name, cause or mission via your domain name. It makes it easy for people to remember you. You make a full and lasting impression in the minds of your visitors and contacts, both existing and new. You want to radiate outwards that perception in people’s memory and what they will remember you by. When someone asks them if they know someone who can . . . you will more easily float to the top in their memory.
6. Have a Social Media Footprint
This reason is much the same as the email and website above. With so many choices in social media, everyone has their favorites. Some may be on all social media. Some choose to stay on only Facebook or LinkedIn. That is ok. That’s why you should have some form of social media footprint. You need to give google search bots material, your content, for adding to the google index. So when someone searches for you or your genre of keywords, you will again filter closer to the top, by virtue of the fact that you have a big social media footprint. In google’s eyes you are more legit, the more times you appear in the google index. That is what raises your rankings in the google index.
7. Know Your Charge Rate
Have an approximate charge rate, either flat rate or hourly, so people know what they can expect to pay. Sometimes your rate is used to judge what level of service you deliver. A nice teaser is to offer a complimentary 20 minute exploratory coffee, so they can meet, converse with you and fully understand why you charge what you charge. Many don’t know all the facets that truly encompass the product or service they are looking for from you. So your number 1 purpose is to go back a few steps and educate them on what is all behind what they are asking for. This also gives you a chance to make your mark as an expert in what you do – your WHY above.
8. Meet In Person
When making a connection with someone initially through your website, email, or social media, always try to meet in-person, for the first time, atleast once. It doesn’t have to be long. One of mine was only 10 minutes, but it proved I was real and serious about my videography service, Video-Connects.com. That way they get to see that you are a real person and your commitment to them and what you do. It is a simple thing to state, but very important. After that, they know they are not wasting their time by continuing the conversation through website, email, social media or phone calls, to some virtual person.
9. Don’t Talk Too Much
I probably talked too much many times in my early years. Then I began meeting people who did the same. I discovered how disconnecting it is. At some point it felt like they are over selling themselves, especially when they repeat things they already said. Talking too much also takes away from them listening and digesting what was just said. Shorter answers and replies are better because it creates a more productive dialogue and discussion, rather than a monologue where you may feel like you are being held hostage and can’t get a word in edgewise. Also, thoughts and questions just pop up in our minds and we must be able to quickly interject and interrupt. Everyone has had passing thoughts run through their minds and once these thoughts are gone, they are gone, perhaps forever. So accept and allow immediate interruptions as it is very productive, interactive and connecting. You want a dialogue to take place where you can share your WHY. Then you can go into your HOW.
10. Dress Business Casual
If you are attending an event that can easily turn into a networking event, always dress professionally. If you must wear shorts, that is ok. Just make sure they are more business casual shorts and not your hacked up denims you normally wear to the car wash. The clothes you wear also say you are serious about successful networking.
11. Mind Your Time
Last and most important, is time. Time is your greatest and most important asset. Once your time is gone, there is no way of getting it back. Your time is a vital business input. When you are involved in an organization wether to network, build connections or learning how to speak better, always keep in mind to ensure your return is matching or greater than your input. Know what you want to get out or achieve by your involvement in an organization. Set goals, for each meeting or event and longer term, like a year. Once you feel like you have hit a plateau or the law of diminishing returns has taken over, it’s time to move on or to change the rules of engagement. You want to keep your return returning and growing for you. Sometimes you may think it, but if not sure, continue coming to your event and analyze your observations and how you feel. Believe me, you will know when your returns have dropped. You will feel it.
12. Stick With Doers
Once you have a chance to connect, make sure it’s with doers. Who are doers? People who are ahead of you, established and with some proven track record, beit their own business or engaging with others. The last thing you want is to engage with someone who only wants to go for coffee and develop a social relationship. They may be the nicest people in the world, but they won’t take you anywhere. Nor will they be able to give you any useful information for other connections. Remember that famous adage, “Surround yourself with those you would like to become”. It simply puts you in the right atmosphere and energy sphere. Also, if they are full of energy, positiveness, ideas, tempered with a get-it-done attitude, you will go much further with these in your network.
13. Mind Your Priorities
You may have a social coffee planned with a friend for a specific day or evening when suddenly, 2 days to go you get an invite from your existing network to join them at an event. You immediately must take them up on their invite. Despite being last minute, these opportunities, if turned down once, may never come your way again from that same person. It is a matter of feeding an existing connecting relationship you have already sewn in recent past, for this very reason. Now they are giving you a chance to attend an event where you may meet of your own kind. Apologize to your previous social engagement and offer to reschedule. It happens to all of us. Passing up an invite like this is not where you practise being the nicest person in the world. These event invites is what you are hoping for as the next step from your initial networking.
14. Keep Your Commitments
If someone you meet at a networking event, asks you for more info or a quote for the product or service you provide, and you commit to delivering it by email that same evening, then make sure you do it. I missed 1 opportunity very easily by delaying my reply by a week. When I finally did, it was welcomed by a snyde remark saying it looked like I wasn’t interested. My heart dropped when I realized how big a deal it really is. Stick to what you say you will do. Personal integrity is everything. If you cannot do or deliver something exactly as they are requesting, be sure to say so up front and why. It’s only professional to operate that way.
Once you get on the threadmill of networking, RECIPROCATE. For example, I was invited to video a speaker. I set a lower price because I already crossed paths with this key person with her non-profit whose cause I fully support. But I gave half this fee back as a donation. She passed several of my 1-pager promos out to others in her charity club. I buy a few of their tickets, which also are fundraisers for their cause. This is how it goes. You help me and I help you. It’s a way of supporting each other in the practise of getting your name around. Yes, I could have kept ALL the fee, but I may never have heard back from her charity. I would have taken the first step in closing that door. And that is not what networking is about.
16. Find Interest in Others
When you attend events lead the way by asking people about them and what they do. Don’t waste time by languishing around silence. This is easy as most people love to talk about themselves and what they do. Try to flush out their passion. This will eventually lead them to ask about you. This allows you to also assess wether there is potential for you to connect with them. They may be the experts on what you want or need to learn more about. They may be your next mentor.
17. Practise, practise, practise
Plan to attend events regularly that you can turn into networking events. Practise several of the above at each networking event until the process comes naturally to you. There is nothing better than being able to bring calm and reassurance to another person. When you come to an event, pick someone who may be standing by themselves. No one is comfortable sitting or standing by themselves. It happens to all of us. If anything, you helped make them feel relaxed, welcome and into the spirit of the event. That in itself goes a long way and make them appreciate you for approaching them. We have all been there. Certainly me.
There you have it. It took me many years to experience the above. You get it in 5 minutes. Read and understand the above before you go to a networking event. Review my article every several weeks till all tips become engrained into you. Eventually my tips will click in.
Because your time is valuable and I value it, I am keeping this episode under 5 minutes. Keep coming back in a few weeks to review the above tips to keep yourself on track. Happy Networking !