One piece of advice that you’ll often get as a small business owner or leader is to network. And, that is a great piece of advice if you follow it. But, to make it work, you actually have to “be” a networker.
What does that mean? Often, people will join a networking group or event and show up once and expect the magic to just happen – that contacts and business will just come flooding in. That won’t work. To “be” a star networker, = follow these steps:
Be in Attendance
They say, “80% of success is just showing up.” This is very true in networking. We all have busy schedules but to be a successful networker, you have to make the time to regularly attend your networking groups and events. Strive for perfect attendance. If you have a conflict you just can’t avoid, send a coworker in your place.
Once you make the time and commitment to attend networking events, the next step you need to take is to become an engaged participant. If you just stand in the corner or sit enjoying the snacks and drinks, you’ll never make the connections that will help you grow your business. A wallflower rarely gets asked to dance. Make an effort to meet and talk with a new person at each event.
At the risk of sounding obvious, make every effort to be likeable. Friendliness goes a long way in networking. Make yourself approachable and be the kind of person to which others enjoy talking. Try to find common interests and topics to discuss. Don’t make every conversation revolve around your business, but rather show interest in what the other has to say and ask questions about their line of work, family, hobbies and more.
Everyone knows that the reason people join networking groups is to expand their connections and ultimately grow business. However, you should approach networking with the Golden Rule as your guide. Treat others the way you would like to be treated. Do whatever you can to help someone else out, whether through an introduction, sharing a helpful tip or tool or referring a customer. When you help others, that goodwill tends to come back round to you tenfold.
If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never get there. You need to go into your networking meetings and events with your end goals in mind. What is it you would ultimately like to accomplish, learn and/or contribute? Are you just interested in gaining customers? Would you like to meet like-minded people? Are you looking for an opportunity to gain leadership experience? Networking groups can provide all of that and more, but you need to set your intentions and follow through to make them happen.
Follow these tips and you can become an outstanding networker!