Even if you were the greatest coder to have ever walked on the face of the Bay area, your networking skills are of utmost importance if you want to achieve your dream of becoming an entrepreneur. You might be a great person, who has developed a great product, but without the network, you are not going to reach your full potential – no matter what!
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Networking does not just mean exchanging a few business cards. If you meet a person you would like to connect with, treat this person like you would treat a friend. Find common things to talk about and ask questions to understand the other person better. Make it known that you care about building a connection even if you aren’t likely to have any direct gains from the relationship. Here are a few tips which will help you improve your networking skills.
Reach out to one person a day
If the idea of personally approaching a stranger to connect with them for business scares you, then follow this simple routine. Send an email to whomever you want to connect with. Tell them what you admire about them and their work and introduce yourself and your work. You have a great chance of connecting with someone if they know that you appreciate their work. This way, you come across as someone who takes their business and their networking seriously.
Personalise your message
Entrepreneurs get a lot of unsolicited messages from vendors and people who would like to connect with them. Even those sent by other entrepreneurs often look like spam email. I remember being at a networking event where we went about the usual chore of exchanging cards. After the event, I received an email from one of the entrepreneurs (whose startup raised Series A recently) which had no greeting or even the complimentary “It was good to talk to you, Mathew.” All it contained was a plain brief about his company. The receiver of such an email won’t bother replying.
Find out about the person in advance
Get to know about the person you want to connect with. Find out if they enjoy their free time watching Kevin Spacey in House of Cards or if they prefer a good game of badminton. Try collecting such information, which is easy these days with social networking sites like Facebook. But be mindful of going overboard; you dont want to come across as a stalker. Instead, try talking about some work they have done or an article in which they have been mentioned. All this shows that you take your networking seriously.
Follow proper etiquette
You might have your A-game on when you network, but the necessary niceties of the world are not to be forgotten. Listen more, do not interrupt, be on time and always be nice. Do not come across as pushy just to further your interests. Make sure people like your personality enough to work with you. No one ever made a bad impression with good manners.
Keep your word
The other day, I had a gentle dressing-down from a fellow entrepreneur I had connected with. Despite promising to send her an email, I failed to keep my word. This happened twice. In the gentlest way possible, she told me how unprofessional it made me look. When you promise someone something, be it sending a simple text or introducing someone over email or a meeting over coffee, do it without fail. If there is something that holds you back from keeping your word, do not keep the person waiting. Let them know much in advance that you will not be able to fulfil your promise.
Set small goals
If networking is certainly not your strong point, then it is wise to set smaller and achievable goals for yourself. A simple goal would be to collect at least five business cards at a networking event or maybe to call two people you had met at a conference last week.
Following up is not only important in sales but in networking as well. Thank your contact for the earlier interaction and seek ways to improve your relationship with them. Having good relationships ensures that you have a higher chance of converting them into leads.
Remember that networking with an entrepreneur is not rocket science. Lay the groundwork, be clear about what you want to say, treat the other person like a friend and you are well on your way to becoming a networking genius.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory)
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- social networking
- Leadership skills
- communication skills
- interpersonal skills