How to Network with Purpose
I am writing this blog on a Friday afternoon, in the parking lot behind a bar/lounge in Ferndale, MI. I am waiting for a friend so that we can go to a networking event hosted by Internations, a non-profit organization whose mission is to connect people with international backgrounds in different cities across the world (check them out at www.internations.org).
This is my 4th Internations event and I am really looking forward to it. Now, I know what you are thinking… “Andre, are you REALLY excited about a networking event?”. I get it, when I started building my coaching business I dreaded networking as well. Meeting with people you don’t know, talking about yourself, trying to sell them on you and your services… I am exhausted just typing these things out! However, networking doesn’t need to be draining. It does not need to be a chore. Trust me, if you change your approach you might even… wait for it… have some fun doing it. That’s right friend, you too can enjoy networking! Here are some things that have helped me enjoy networking:
NETWORK WITH PURPOSE
This sounds straight forward, but have you taken the time to define what you are looking to gain from the networking event you are attending? What is your goal? Is it to get as many business cards as possible? Is it to practice your elevator pitch? Is it to expand your network?
Defining your objectives will allow you to better approach your evening. Your attitude and style will be much different if you are looking to sell people on your services vs. trying to expand your network. So, before you go out to the event, spend some time thinking about what you are trying to achieve.
KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
Depending on the networking event, your audience will be more or less receptive to what you are looking to achieve. Take this Internations event for example. This particular event is set up for people to socialize. It is at a lounge, there will be drinks, people will be looking to mingle and to get to know each other. The mood will be much more social then business. If my goal is to be able to set up meetings for my coaching practice I will more than likely not be very successful. However, if my objective is to get to know people better and to build relationships, I could eventually get some meetings out of it. Know your audience, and what they will be receptive to, and you will be much better off.
FOCUS ON OTHERS
When it comes to networking, our first instinct is to vomit as much information about us and our business to anyone who is willing to listen. I mean, people won’t be able to know how you can help them unless you tell them why you are the greatest thing since slice bread right?? Come on, as it is with most things in life you will get much further by focusing on somebody else. Be interested. Ask questions. Be genuinely curious about other people. That is how you make connections. It’s not about you, so get over yourself already.
Now that you have an objective, that you know your audience and that you are focused on learning about others, how can you motivate yourself to maximize your efforts? Nothing like a goal to keep you focused on the task at hand, right?
Make 10 new connections? Build 5 opportunities to develop a more meaningful relationship? Talk to X amount of people? Regardless of what it is, put a number against it. That will allow you to stay focused on what you are trying to achieve. It will give you a kick in the pants when you are in the corner sipping your gin & tonic waiting for someone to come talk to you. Establish a clear goal and set your sights in crushing it.
So, you wake up tomorrow and you have all these business cards and connections. Now what? The thing about building relationships is that it takes work. You need to have a plan so that all this work that you put towards networking pays off. How will you contact the people you met? Will it be a call? If so, what do you want to get from it? Will you connect with people on LinkedIn? Will you stop at that?
Having a follow up plan is critical to your success. The important thing here is to be genuine and to not force things. Sending a mass e-mail to all the people you’ve met, asking them to schedule something with you so that you can pitch them, will probably produce poor results. Now if you reach out to each person individually, mention something specific about the interaction you had, and provide an open-ended option as on how the two of you can further your relationship, you will be planting a seed that will eventually prosper into opportunity. Think of it as paving multiple roads that will lead you down a road of possibility.
Enough already. Where’s the bartender?
Andre Mello is a Business Coach and is wrapping things up so that he can go get a gin and tonic with his Internations' friends. He has been in marketing and leadership for over 17 years. If you would like to connect with Andre please visit www.wysecoaching.com.