Networking is key for
- Word-of-mouth referrals for your business
- Opportunities for new partnerships
- Mentorship and career advice
When you have your own business, assistance from others is key to helping you grow more quickly and improve the services you offer. Here are four techniques for improving your networking game to fuel business growth!
1. Find Out Which Networking Style Works for Your Personality Type
Not all networking opportunities are created equal. Depending on your personality and preferred work style, an event like a mixer could be heavenly or hellish.
TopResume has a quick and fun quiz to discover your networking style. If you are introverted and value quiet time to do your best work, starting with networking online and setting up one-on-one coffee meetings may be a more suitable approach. If you're extroverted and love meeting new people, a large event where you can work a room may be a better fit. For ambiverts, who fall in the middle of the introvert-extrovert spectrum, you might try a variety of approaches to see where you excel.
Armed with knowledge about what type of networking events might be best for you, you can hone in on those meetings. If going to a large event is stressful or draining for you, it'd be a much better use of your time to coordinate one-on-one connections. If you like being social and are short on time, scheduling in a bigger event once or twice a month might work better.
Every type of personality has a different optimal approach to successful networking. No matter what you prefer, you're not alone, and there are plenty of opportunities to connect with similarly like-minded networkers.
2. Focus on Making a Memorable First Impression
Even if you start your networking journey online, you'll want to meet key contacts face to face at some point. A 2016 report by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology found face-to-face meetings are the most successful type for building relationships.
When you meet someone you want to bring into your networking circle, a solid first impression can be the deciding factor in whether or not that contact wants to continue the relationship with you.
Members of the Forbes Communications Council advise to share, not sell. Promoting your business in a sales-y way can be a turnoff since networking is best when both contacts are able to help each other. Some tips the team shares include:
Smile. Smiling is an easy way to break the ice, show that you are friendly, and invite the other person to make a connection with you. The simple act of smiling is also proven to reduce stress
.Usethis trick to be at ease with the person you're networking with and make them feel relaxed, too.
- Use active listening. One of the best ways to show you're invested in a conversation is to engage with what the other person is saying. Show how you relate to the other person by sharing a personal anecdote that relates to what the other person has shared. Another great technique is to ask follow-up questions. This shows that you're interested and are genuinely invested in the other person.
- Offer help. Networking is symbiotic. It's not simply about what's in it for you. A solid networking relationship is based on the foundation of mutual help. Ask the person you're talking to about how you can help them in the future. Even if you're only able to keep them in mind for future opportunities that might arise, stating that you're willing to do this could result in a similar payoff for you.
Treat each networking meeting as a chance to make a new friend. This way, there is no pressure to push your business on them, but the natural conversation that flows can keep you at top of mind when a good opportunity to help you comes along.
3. Follow Up with People You've Met
Your new connections are probably just as busy as you are. Like other types of relationships - a friendship, a romantic relationship or a relationship with a family member - face time and communication are key to help strengthen networking relationships. You'll want to check in regularly with those you're connected with to keep those bonds alive.
Here are some tips.
- Send a thank you note. A quick email after you've met someone or had a meeting is a way to show gratitude and that you value your new relationship. If you met someone at an event and had a meaningful conversation, send a note thanking the person for their time. Remind them that you're there to help if they need it. If you had a coffee or lunch date with someone, send a thank you note highlighting an interesting point from your conversation.
- Check in regularly. There may be mutually beneficial opportunities for you and those in your network that you'll never know about unless you check in. Every few months, call or email those in your network to check in to ask what your contacts are up to, and share the latest professional news in your world. You might stumble upon opportunities to help each other out.
- Strengthen bonds online. An easy way to grow your networking relationships is to use social media. LinkedIn, a social network designed for professionals is especially critical to use. Add your new contact on the social network, and you'll be able to see what they post to their feed, just like you would on a site like Facebook. Then, you can add encouraging comments to posts or look for ways to help each other.
Those who are in your network could help you in your career in so many diverse ways. For example, if you always wanted to work in a certain state or country, your contacts might have experience there and be able to help you relocate, too. Or, if you're moving, your contacts could help connect you with people they know in the area.
The more often you connect and talk with contacts, the more genuine your relationships will be, and the more likely they will be to respond when you need help.
4. Practice, Practice, Practice
Katie Hurst, Lash Affair's director of marketing, shares a valuable insider networking tip that can get you up to speed. Next time you're at a trade show (see five reasons to attend trade shows here), walk the exhibit
It's a good way to do a lot of networking practice at once and learn how to ask relevant questions. Plus, you never know where a conversation might lead - to a partner, vendor, client, referral, etc.
There also might be speed networking events in your area, where you get the chance to talk one-on-one with many people in one night. This might be a great type of event if you are new to networking and feel uncomfortable jumping into group conversations.
You can also expand your social circle by participating in a non-work-related class or volunteer activity. Low-pressure, non-professional situations present plenty of opportunities to connect with new people and sharpen your social skills.
Get Out There for Your Career
Even if you plan on staying a solo
If you get nervous about networking, know that you're not alone. Up to 50 percent of the American population has at least some introvert tendencies. By smiling, showing a genuine interest in other people, and building relationships through follow-up and frequent contact, you don't just add to your networking circle. You could get a friend for life who has a tremendous impact on your
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