by: Remie Longbrake | published: July 26, 2020
Who you know can set you apart and help you reach your goals. These times especially are tough as Covid is making our traditional way of life much different then what we are used to. To be a good networker, one don’t necessarily have to be a great communicator or overly outgoing. What it takes to be successful is being honest with who you are, understanding what value you bring to others, and wanting to be helpful for the right reasons.
Times may certainly be different, but that doesn’t mean we should give up on trying to meet others. It’s through others that new opportunities come about. It’s not only about meeting a bunch a people, networking at it’s core is about sharing value you provide to help others and in that process to allow others possible opportunities to help you.
As much as many of us are used to face to face meetings, that is not entirely possible these days. The steps outlined highlight the importance of networking and the best ways to associate, whether that is in person or remote.
1. Networking is a Part of You
Networking itself should be seen as something you do, but a part of who you are. No matter where you are, become interested in learning about others and what they do and what interests them. Ask powerful questions and listen deeply. While you are listening, identify a way you could help others and be of service to them. This is a powerful way to build trust with a person and when someone trusts you, they will remember you. This will come back to you 10 times over. You would be surprised on what occurs in your life when you go about it in a fun, proactive and helpful way.
2. Understand Why
Why do you want to meet others? Many people will say it’s primarily to sell something to them. Likely, that is the case with you too. Not that there is a problem with this necessarily, however, you want to make sure you are going to be able to help people and add value. The downside of our culture is that we want things very quickly. We move at hyper speed, going through life. All that activity will over time cause stress and make our life less enjoyable in the process. Sometimes we need to slow down, because when we do so, we find that what we are doing isn’t always in our best interest. Ideally, our why is up to each of us to figure out, yet too many of us allow others to dictate our days according to someone else will.
When it comes to meeting the right people, get a clear understanding on what you do. This isn’t just at work, it’s about who you are as a person. Consider, what are your likes, what motivates and give you energy, but also to, what takes that energy away. Get clear and passionate about those things and be able to focus on doing those things more often. You will find that the good things, those you enjoy with fuel you to do more and ultimately help others in the process.
Networking in many ways has become too transactional. As a result, too many professionals quickly exchange information on what they do as they rack up business cards. Begin building relationships by getting to know why people do what they do, not just what they do. I hear time and time again from others, what do you do. Immediately they respond with what they do at their job. We are much more than our work and we contribute in many ways outside of that position. How much easier would it to connect and find common ground, when you share your interests as well. You could include “I am a father”, married to my beautiful wife for x years” “I love to x”. There are so many more ways to connect just then our work. Ask yourself why you do what you do.
3. Have a Plan
Once you understand your why, it becomes easier to establish a plan to network and meet the right people for the right reasons. Going at anything without a plan is asking for trouble in the end. There will be a good chance you’re going to be frustrated at your results because you’re just meeting anyone without clear direction. Get hyper focused, and understand that why, then put a plan in place to effectively meet others.
4. Help People Fill One Specific Need
Networking is all about relationship building and adding value to your network. When you connect with every person you meet, find one specific thing they're looking for and follow up with whatever they said they needed. Whether that's an introduction, referral, lead, organization contact, event or an article on a specific topic. People will remember that connection and how you made them feel in the long run. Again, however, you want to focus on the right people who have the right need. If you have people asking for things that are not your specialty, then it’s going to become more difficult to help these people and then they may become frustrated as feel you are taking up too much of their time.
5. Build Relationships First
You always want to focus on trust. This is fundamental to any relationship, even those through our work. It’s by showing others who we are and the values we have that allow others to develop their own beliefs of who we are. To many of us are about sell first and it should be about helping first. We are all human, and at the core of that is we can feel accomplished. When we help others feel that accomplishment, we ourselves can help ourselves. It's not about what they can do for you, which would include buying your product or service; it’s really about what you can do for them. That conversation often starts with just being friendly and asking, “How could I best help you right now?”
6. Share Your Story
Do you ever consider who you are and what has brought you to this point? That is your story. We should all share that in order to build connections. Of course, that doesn’t mean we have to share all the struggles we have been through, but I can say the most strong relationships I have built, yes even friends, I have shared many of those struggles. If you want to build that trust factor, it’s about getting real, that starts with yourself. Don’t be afraid of the story, be afraid of not doing enough, and let that be your motivator. Take your story and try to condense that to a couple minutes speech including what you do, your background, interests, and how you help others. Get precise with this and practice it often enough you can share without stumbling your words. One way to consider this is as an elevator pitch. Primarily you want to stick to the highlights without taking too much time so the other person understands overall what your about and can start building a connection.
7. Hold the Pitch
The pitch is out. These day people don’t want to be sold, especially millennials and younger generations. They are savvy enough to do their own research for the most items. This includes relationships. Everything is online these days. If you want something there it is in two clicks. Most people buy a product because they have trust with the company, person, or product. When it comes to sales, there is nothing wrong with highlighting features, but also it is important to just take time to ask what is important to the person in general. It’s good sense to be sensible, ask good questions and listen to what is actually important. Try not to be overbearing with a bunch of hyped talk that doesn’t add value. People can see through this and will lose interest rather quickly. We can boast without being dramatic or overly eager to promote something we have or offer. Get back to basics and treat people with the respect they deserve. If what you offer doesn’t have the most value for that person when say that. The great thing about networking with others is that even if you may not have the best solution, you might know someone who does.
8. Network Your Network
A great approach that is valuable is to connect your network to each other. That alone add tremendous value. When you get clear on what you offer and understand what people in your network need, you can more easily connect others to what they need. This is about putting others first, which for many people is hard to do. Some people go about relationship as if there is no value to myself then I am not giving any back. This is wrong thinking in the since that when you are genuine and make others feel valued, will see that and will grow to trust and like you more. There have been many times through networking, that I have gained leads, clients, and sometimes friendships just because my primary contacts have sent other referrals. Of course, when it’s reciprocal that’s even better, because that is what strengthens are connection when each other add value and takes interests in what we do.
9. Listen and Clarify
If you want a great relationship, whether in business or in life, listen more! Yes, in our flashy world we certainly do all we can to reach more people with flashy titles and offerings. However, it’s really important to focus on value and building relationships. That foundation is built on listening to others more. Build trust and understand what the true needs are. Sometimes people are not entirely clear. We have a habit of not wanting to rock the boat or cause a conflicting moment. This is true in relationships, sales, and more. Listening is important to getting out the facts so we can help others in the right way. Clarity some in as when we listen, we want to clarity what the other person is saying. You can ask something like, “If I understand correctly” or “So what you saying is x.” This is very powerful and can go a long way to building trust and respect from others. Don’t get me wrong, it is a skillset, one that many still need to master, however over time you will come out much better and build stronger relationships overall.
10. Be Present
Presence is more than just seeing what is around you. That is the physical sense, but also presence is emotionally driven. When it comes to network and communication in general, being present is a powerful tool to utilize. Although, these times don’t necessarily permit direct contact as much we are used to, it’s still important, perhaps even more important to have proper presence. Even through a computer screen we can pick up on verbal and non-verbal communication. By combining our listening and clarity skills, we can grow to be excellent communicators and learn to read people, even if one does not actually say the words. Body language is a big one, and many people don’t pick up on these subtle clues. If you don’t project meaningful communication and value, the other person can become bored. Even with great interaction I have seen people, check phones, email, and just do other activities. With Skype, Zoom and other video meeting apps, it’s a great tool for sure, but it’s also on us to get caught up in other activities, even if it’s inadvertently done. Overall, this is telling other that what they are saying is not important enough to us. Although, I certainly am not 100% present all the time, I do my best to stay on task. I allow adequate time to communicate with others. I block time out, schedule appropriate, and communicate with other up front and doing conversation of the call and what is of value. Try to do your best to stay in the moment as much as possible. That can be difficult with many of us working from home, however set expectations from others and most importantly yourself to stay on point and to do you best by being present.
11. Remember Names
You would be surprised the number of times we forget, most important the person we just met! It’s crazy that we can forget something or someone so quickly. I also have been guilty and not without fault here, however when I started listening more, clarifying others’ words, and being present, remembering names has been easier. Couple exercises that has helped is once someone does state their name if will repeat it back to myself several times. I also try to match up their name with others I know and try to match their interest to something of value. I have also been known to rhyme names to something relatable. Although silly perhaps, it does help. Of course, if working remote, finding out someone’s name is much easier when it’s right on the screen, however I still make it a habit of interjecting their name in conversation. This helps me, but also the other person finds value in their own name, so repeating it add to our credibility overall. The other thing I do is take notes as much as possible. This can be done on paper or on your phone or computer, however taking down notes if great to do. It will help you remember the conversation but also to if does show the other person that what they are saying is important to you. Overall, it’s a great way to network and one very underused concept that we should all do more of.
12. Don't Hide You
Be genuine in all that you do. You will end up much farther and garnish so much more respect this way. We are all different in our own ways and that is what makes us unique. Be true to who you are and share that with others. Share your uniqueness with others and try to bond with others how have some of those same interests. It’s a great way to build your network and share value. Don’t be afraid to try new things as well, you may find new things to enjoy and meet new people along the way.
Even in vulnerable states we can add value. Ensure however that you are being sincere, and this is as much as your benefit and it is for others. Don’t hide the guilt, shame or insecurities. Over time they will have their way of working on your emotions and will weigh you down, including relationship you have tried so hard to build up. There are always going to be moments we are not proud of, however by sharing and accepting who we are that we can ultimately help others.
13. Show Gratitude
Be thankful for those you meet. Regardless of where the conversation goes, just be a good friend and resource by saying and showing thanks. There are a number of way one can show gratitude. As many of us work remote, it’s very little effort to send a message to say thanks. You can literally says something like; “Thanks for our conversation, I appreciate you and what we discussed.” I look forward to speaking to you again.” You can refer to last messages or your notes to clarify something specific that stood out. Of course, if you have a question or would like to ask something specific then just do that. Just be clear with your intentions and be respectful or their time and go from a place of friendship as much as possible. Also, there is nothing wrong with just saying, “Hi, I hope your well. I am glad we spoke on x date. If I can do anything for you or have a question I am here to help!” It’s low key, not pushy, and shows you care and value that person.
In person can be trickier these days, however notes, letters, thank you cards are all a great way to say thanks. Mail still works, however since more people work from home, it’s not always practical. Texting can work well too. It’s actually one of the more effective ways to drawl feedback. Just when doing so be tasteful and respectful. And don’t forget email and the phone call! Those are great tool as well. As with any of these means, try to build that initial connection first understand what the need or opportunity is for both parties. Don’t misrepresent your intentions and be gracious to those you connect with.
14. Focus on the Follow Up
There is not much more important the following up. Truth is most people don’t, so if you want to make a solid impression, take the extra step and follow up with people. There’s a variety of ways to accomplish this, and there is no set way. Email, text, a phone call, it all works. Just be clear on why you are reaching out again when doing so. In sales, it’s a great way. You would be surprised on the amount of sale people who give up after one call. When you do have a meeting, schedule a follow up right there. If they say not interested, ask to follow up in a set amount of time and then stick to that. Here is where having your calendar and schedule planned is so important.
Of course, sales itself is not the only value point to be made by following up. Relationships in general take work and keeping in contact and following up on ways we can help each other is a great thing to do and prove your worth to others.
15. Be Punctual
Being on time is very important. This is true in all relationships, including networking activities. Punctuality makes a good impression and shows others that you value their time and yours. When you are late, this leaves the person on the other end thinking that they are not important enough to you. When it comes to networking with new people especially, that first introduction is key. Start on the right foot and be one time. If by chance something does come up unexpectedly, then be sure to reach out to the other person and be honest about why you will not be on time.
16. Schedule Accordingly
Just as being on time is important, so is scheduling enough time. These days there is so much technology we can benefit from to make life easier for us. Google and Microsoft and Zoom have great features to schedule meetings. For the most part, they all have invites to the other parties, reminders, and notices for scheduling conflicts. Try to stick with one source as much as possible that way you are not trying to go between multiple calendars.
Also, good tip is to allow enough time between meetings. Depending on the topic of conversation, make clear to the other people on the meeting up front if you have another call or meeting schedules afterwards. This helps keep the conversation on point for you and others involved. If time runs out, instead of going long and making the other appointment wait, reschedule the current meeting for another time. Overall, that is most respectful thing to do as says to others you value everyone’s time including your own.
Who we know can certainly dictate how far we go. A great, but often under utilized means to meet others is to get referrals. Businesses spend millions on advertising to get new business when in reality most would not need to spend so much is they would have others speak for them. Referrals is not something new, but it’s value is still under appreciated. As much as people are online and networking already through social media, businesses can use those individuals to help brand and build awareness.
When it comes to getting referrals, it really starts by asking for the referral in the first place. You would be surprised how many people dislike asking, therefore many sales people put in twice the effort starting all other again, when they can just ask. Some ways, this is because the sales person may feel like they didn’t do the best job, could be a product issue, or also rejection from the customer or client. And that is true, some may have a negative response, however, if that is the case, then you have the chance to make them happier by asking and understand the concern that you probably would be aware of and would have continued to make.
Referrals should not be a big deal and when you take true interest in your customer, client, or anyone in general then getting referrals would not be such an issue to acquire and further expand your network and keep providing your solutions.
18. Tap Into Your Professional Network
When it comes to our network we often think of our colleagues and associates who we work with. Although true, these days there are so many ways to meet other professionals. These times specifically have reduced some of the face to face opportunities such as luncheons, after work socials, clubs, and networking events, however meeting others can certainly be done. We can still meet in person when possible and safe to do so, however, we need to be respectful of other and distance ourselves when able. Depending on what you are providing and how work related it is, we could ask your coworkers themselves. Get oriented with what they do and enjoy. See how you can possible provide solutions for them and reach out to their connections and see how you can possible help.
Likewise, you can and should include your clients, gain referrals, and build more connections that way as well. How you do that, depends on what you provide. However, you don’t need to meet everyone face to face in order to connect with others or meet new people. Right now, technology is very useful to share information and sometimes doing these meetings over the internet can actually be more efficient so you can meet even more people when done properly.
19. Tap Into Your Personal Network
Networking extends beyond your professional connections. Friends and family can be a great asset when sharing what you do and attempting to reach new people. The biggest obstacle to building relationships is the trust factor, which these people would already have established that barrier. Know understand, friends and family don’t like to be sold as much as anyone else, so depends on what you are trying to do, be careful here not to burn bridges by being pushy. Kindly ask when having conversation if it’s okay to share what you are up to and take interests in what they are doing as well. Then when you feel comfortable you could ask if they know anyone that is into what your interests are. Just as a professional connection, see if they would introduce you to them when it’s convenient. This goes a long way. Especially, as family or a friend, genuinely take interest and listen for the need they may have. If you know someone who could benefit in your network bring that person up as a possible source. Then if it is okay reach out to your connection on behalf of them.
20. Engage on Social Media
The new way to network is online! Especially these days with Covid, it’s practically a priority. The Internet has expanded our reach to reach others exponentially. With over half the Worlds population online, if you are not using social media to reach others then you are missing out.
There is no best way to reach others. A lot depending on your comfort level. Some people are not comfortable sharing a bunch of personal stuff online, especially to strangers. That is certainly understandable and likely the safe approach. You don’t have to necessarily share specific details on relationships and pains, but you do want to share to a certain degree of what you do and what your interests are, in order to build that trust. People are very quick to judge, so if you want to make a good impression then you need to consider sharing more about who you are. Be real with that however, and don’t overly try to impress and show off as this can seem fake and out of touch. It’s best practice to share and try to educate with what you know and some of your values that are important to you. When you reach out to people, go about it as a helpful approach and don’t blast people with your sales pitch until the seem interested. You can also try to build rapport by asking about their interests, work activities, family, and safe areas of conversation. Generally best to avoid controversial topics such as politics, religion, news, at least until there is some solid communication or they ask to know in general.
Facebook is still a great way to connect. These days Facebook lives, these short videos are popular as are Facebook groups. The group are great as the people in these already have similar interests so it’s easier to connect right away. LinkedIn is very popular, and they have their own groups to be a part of as well. Instagram, Twitter, and all sorts of online platforms offer an excellent way to connect with more people and share value.
Remember, value is where it is at. When networking and building connections, be yourself and see where you can possibly contribute to others and continue to do what you feel is right. The right people will come when you come from a place of respect and generosity. You can certainly do others a favor by continuing to share what you do and take interest in others. Continue to pursue your passions with purpose and kindness to do what is right for others.