14 Strategies for Networking Success
This is a guest blog post by FX Risk Consultant Pascale Hansen.
Relationships form the core of our human lives. No one has ever been successful alone, which is why networking is so important. Networking is essential to personal and professional success; as who you know always matters. If someone you know and trust recommends you a hire or use the services of someone they know, wouldn’t you be very likely to follow their recommendation?
I define networking as the process of creating mutually beneficial relationships for personal and professional success. This is done by exchanging information, resources, and support.
I’m a firm believer in forming genuine relationships and that the intention you bring to your networking efforts will determine your success.
Through 18 years of professional sales, I’ve developed many strategies for networking.
Here are some of the most important ones:
1. Do Your Homework & Be Selective.
Before you get dressed to go to an event, make sure the people you want to meet are likely to be there.
Why are you networking? Are you looking for your next career move? Are you in sales and looking for decision makers with a certain title or are you simply looking to meet like-minded individuals who share similar passions?
Be clear on your objective and if you’re busy or value your time, do the research, and find out if you’ll be in a target-rich environment.
2. Create a Plan
Once you’re clear on your objective and perhaps know who will be attending an event, you could reach out to the person(s) you want to meet beforehand (through LinkedIn, email, or mutual contact) and tell them you look forward to meeting them. If you’re attending a trade show often you’ll get a map of company booths with your registration swag before the show starts.
To maximize your networking effects at a large trade show, take the time to study the map and find out which companies’ booths are most important for you to visit and map out your route. You may find during your research that certain companies don’t match your criteria which will give you more face time building with the company representative you most want to meet.
3. Act Like a Host / Hostess
When you’re hosting a party, you take on the role of host or hostess and you make sure you’ve spoken to everyone, made them feel comfortable and introduced them to others at your party. Take on a similar mindset at a networking event. If you’ve just met someone who you think would find value in connecting with someone else at the same event, take the initiative to introduce them. This is also a polite way to leave a conversation and move on to others in the room.
4. Know Your Elevator Pitch
Isn’t that just for sales people? No. Every encounter with another person is an opportunity to promote yourself, your work, and your brand.
The next person you meet may be a potential client, employer, friend, or business partner. If you’re unable to succinctly tell someone who you are and what you do that makes you different from everyone else, you may be losing out on a golden opportunity.
You don’t have to come across as a sleazy, pushy salesperson. It’s all in what you say and how you say it. Be confident and authentic. If you’re speaking to someone outside of your industry don’t use jargon they won’t understand. Keep it simple.
5. Ask Qualifying Questions
Be the first person to ask questions. People often like to talk about themselves and being an attentive listener not only allows you to get the information you need to know to determine if the person in front of you may be a potentially good contact but also allows you to identify ways in which you could help this person either with your goods or services or by introducing them to someone in your network.
6. Be Interesting and Be Brief
Remember that busy people who network a lot will likely forget they ever met you unless you’re interesting, unique or at the very least told them an interesting or funny story.
If you talk about the weather, the election, or the real estate prices in Vancouver, you will sound just like the 20 other people that came before you.
Make your time with people count. As you build rapport with someone and find a mutual interest, share something helpful or memorable. If someone tells you they’re planning their first trip to Barcelona and you’re know the city very well, recommend a little-known restaurant that they may enjoy or an off-the-beaten track sight-seeing trip.
7. Look For Ways to Give
Some networkers approach others in an almost predatory manner, intent on satisfying their own agenda of self-promotion. Do the opposite. Focus on how you can better connect with those in your community and how you can share your talents or resources to help others. People who are strictly takers not givers will find their tactics ineffective and self-defeating. Whereas those who seek out opportunities to be of service to others will quickly expand their circle of influence and form mutually beneficial business relationships.
8. Ask for Help
If or when you come across someone who you feel may be able to help you don’t be shy. Ask for help. This could be by introducing you to someone in their company or giving you advice on how to advance your career in their industry,
That may mean asking to meet over coffee or perhaps asking them to be a mentor. Most people like to help others and are usually flattered if someone respectfully asks for help based on their expertise or career experience.
Even if they can’t help you personally, they may introduce you to someone who can.
9. Keep records
Unless you have an exceptional memory, the more people you meet only once or twice, the harder it can be to remember them and what they may have shared with you the last you spoke. Keeping notes can be invaluable to making a good impression and making people feel you cared about the conversation you had with them. I recently met someone for the second time who had shared with me the first time we met that she was excited about racing on a brand new boat with her crew the following day. I had made note of that on the business card she gave me and therefore remembered to ask her about the next time I met her by chance. She was very impressed that I remembered her story. I recommend keeping notes on people in the notes section under their profile photo on LinkedIn (which they can’t see) or if they don’t have a LinkedIn profile keep notes in the notes section on your contact list in Outlook or on your phone.
10. Step Out of Your Comfort Zone
Typically, networking happens face-to-face. This can create anxiety in those who consider themselves less extroverted or don’t like to talk a lot. While being gregarious and comfortable walking up to and speaking to strangers may come naturally to some people, this alone does not equate to being an effective networker.
Often, those who talk the most are the least successful networkers. Effective networkers listen and show genuine interest. Keep this in mind if you’re not a big talker and remember the more you force yourself to do it, the easier it will become and your confidence will grow.
11. Divide and Conquer
When networking is a required part of your job and you do it often, it can become a little tedious. Why not tag team with someone? Divide and conquer. Split up the room and speak to different people and look for opportunities to introduce each other to potential prospects.
12. Follow Up Within 24 Hours
Follow up with new contacts as soon as possible so that you’re showing interest in the new relationship and before they have the chance to forget you. When following up with a LinkedIn connection request, be brief and reference where you met. Following up quickly also minimizes the chance that the business cards you receive gather dust on your desk or in your pocket making your time invested useless.
13. Quality Over Quantity
Unless you’re at a speed networking event, don’t rush from one conversation to the next as quickly as possible. The first five minutes of a conversation are usually of the rapport-building, small-talk variety. It takes time to get people to be comfortable with you, and to truly connect with someone.
This lays the foundation for a high-quality, professional relationship. The strength and longevity of your business relationships will depend more on the quality of your connections than the quantity.
14. Seek Out Diverse Connections
At networking events it is common to see clusters of people happily chatting away with people they already know and ignoring everyone else for the length of the event.
Make a concerted effort to meet new people. Purposefully split off from your comfort circle of friends and seek out new people. These people may be in a different industry or social group and may help you develop new ideas and discover a broader range of opportunities.
Ultimately networking for success means that you’re achieving your professional goals, building your social capital, and hopefully having some fun along with the way.
As an international payments and foreign currency risk consultant at Western Union Business Solutions in Vancouver, Pascale Hansen helps companies improve cash flow, manage risk, and seize global market opportunities using customized currency risk management solutions.