I was recently talking to my mom about my past experiences; things I needed to improve and things I do well. One of my better skills is networking. She said it came to me easily, like an art form. She also mentioned that she wished she were better at it and had high hopes for my brother in that area. This got me thinking, why is it so easy for some and difficult for others? How did I become so good at it (especially when I don’t think I’m doing a good job of it)? Looking back, I realized that it’s a key part to doing business and an amazing way to bring in sales, get work, find help and so on. It’s more than a room full of suits and ties smiling at one another during cocktail hour. It can be a great marketing tool and plan of attack for your business.
Creates cheerleaders for your business – I meet with a contact from LinkedIn every so many months. He is a financial consultant. Yes, he did sell me on his services, but moreso he was in the business of connecting me to his contacts who could use my services! In turn, I try to help him do the same so he can be successful, or give him tips and tricks on what I do that can help his business.
- Creates opportunities for you to sell – Break out your elevator pitch! If you don’t have one, you need one. It’s a great way to explain what you do. Don’t forget to include your compelling story about why you do what you do so people can identify as you pull them in.
- Creates opportunities for you to hire – You can be a walking job board. You never know whether they might know someone who is looking or if they are looking themselves.
- Creates lasting friendships – You meet people with the same likes and interests. I have become friends with many of my contacts; some are now even like family! You can’t get anything better than this.
- Involves you in the community – You are out in the community speaking to people directly. It also gives you the opportunity to find events, programs, or other organizations to support or link your business to.
- It’s FREE! – This is pretty straightforward. You don’t have to pay for most of these events or to just go and talk to people.
How do you do it?
- Get out there – If you don’t go or take action, nothing will happen. I found this to be the most difficult when starting out. People don’t just come to you; sometimes you have to find them. I had to force myself and set a goal for how many events to attend.
- Set goals to push yourself – As mentioned above, I had to set a goal for how many events I would attend each month and what the desired outcome was. I also set goals for how many cards I would give out and receive. Once I received cards I would contact them with an email and keep the lines of communication open so the lead/link wouldn’t die.
- Get excited – Once you get over the initial stage fright (if you have any) it can be fun! It’s a competition/game when you set goals and you get to be around like-minded people who have a lot in common with you and want to help you and your business succeed just as much as you do.
- Decide to love to talk about yourself and business –Develop that elevator pitch and start getting used to talking about yourself and your business. But remember, keep it compelling and state what you do to help others or solve their problems. People like it when you can help them and, in turn, they will help you.
Networking is a great way to build your own circle of influence as well as help out your business. The short-term discomfort you may feel when you’re first getting started can pay off in the long term. You may need practice to turn it into an art form, but it will be worth it.
By Crystal Gardner, Marketing Production Manager at Red Book Solutions | 6 Years Marketing and Project Management Experience in Agency, Corporate and Private Institutions | University of Denver, Daniels College of Business, Office Of Communications & Marketing, Office Manager