“I owe every job I’ve ever had to networking.” – Tom Farley, President, New York Stock Exchange
Networking is to business the way food is to life. Like it or not, you’ve got to network to keep your business on the path to success. People who are naturally outspoken find it easy to strike friendships easily. However, those who are not, find business networking rather tedious. Here are five habits a strong networker should develop to make business networking smooth, orderly, and less tedious - and of course, a success.
Image : shutterstock
You may be networking at a cocktail party or at a coffee shop. No matter how casual of un-businesslike the setting is, never forget that you are at work.
“Approach networking as you approach your work: Set a goal for yourself and find a networking opportunity that meets that goal,” says Madeline Bell president and CEO of The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), a top-ranked children’s hospital in the United States.
Since its work, it takes effort to network. Effort is not just breaking ice and passing on your business card. The effort required is more than that. If you want to build a strong network, you need to be able to create platforms for other entrepreneurs to network along with you.
“Super connectors know it’s all about getting the right people in the room,” says Scott Gerber, Founder of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only group of highly successful entrepreneurs (as stated by The Next Web)
The world has never been connected the way it is today. Entrepreneurs need to harness the power of the digital world to boost their networking opportunities. “It is so easy these days to build contacts and connections with Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. LinkedIn has become the sophisticated rolodex for business professionals. Use it often to update, share, congratulate and connect,” says Susan Rittscher, President and CEO of the Center for Women & Enterprise, as stated in Forbes.
The importance of preparation can never be overstated. If you find yourself clueless (and wordless) at an event, it shows your lack of preparation. And the price you pay for the slip can be costly. Preparation is nothing but home work. If you get an invite to join a networking event, do your homework – find out who all have been invited. Zero-in on the close prospect with whom you would need to network with. Do a bit of research about the person. This would help in breaking ice. It would help you collect enough information on topics your prospect would be interested in.
“Before I met with Prime Minister Abbott of Australia, I discovered that he is a fitness fanatic and closely follows Olympic swimming. This unique information helped me break the ice by inviting him to train with me and a few friends – including a close friend of mine who swam for Australia’s Olympic team. After the small talk, the rest of the meeting went smoothly,” says Tom Farley, as stated in Fortune.
It's unfortunate that most people approach networking with a ‘What’s in it for me?’ approach, and this is a mistake that leads to failures in networking, a waste of time, and disappointments. As a networker, you need to be able to give value to those who are part of the network. It could be in the way of sharing insights, or connecting two people who you know could benefit from each other, or even setting up an event for people to get together to network. Gary Vaynerchuk, author of ‘Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook’ and Founder of VaynerMedia says, “Pay things forward. You actually have to go and ask for the intro, and the best way to be comfortable asking for that favor is to bring that person value first. By giving someone value first, you then have the equity to spend asking them to make that intro.”
Nobody likes to be bored. So, make efforts to develop an interesting personality. Develop hobbies that you can talk about at cocktail dinners. Learn new things. Develop a funny bone. And most importantly, get to the point quick. Being concise is very critical when you are bringing up a business angle into your conversation, even if it is just an evening of leisurely small-talk. “One thing most super connectors have in common is a packed schedule. You need to offer busy connectors clear-cut calls to action,” says Adam Rifkin, Founder of PandaWhale.
As the world gets increasingly smaller, the paradigms of the business world are fast changing. But the age-old art of networking is and will be a critical factor for business success even in the new world. Practise approaching networking by developing the habits shared to keep your business strong and well-connected.