Creating a Successful Network - It's Easier Than You Think!
Take a minute to think about when your business was first getting started. I’m sure it was a difficult time and that finding sales and potential clients felt impossible at times, but the good news is, you’re not alone! We’ve all struggled to make sales and bring in clients at some point in our business, but the key to solving these issues isn’t some big mystery, in fact, it’s something we do on a daily basis: networking!
The value of the relationships you build during networking is key to sales and life. The relationships become so important because these people get to know you, your character, the work that you perform, etc. They become your business associate, strategic partner, referral source and your friend. The value that one person can bring to your business can be immeasurable, but in order to find that out you have to get your feet wet and get out there!
I love people. I am naturally curious, and I love to learn from and help those I meet, but not everyone is like that, and that’s ok! What I've found is there is always a connection if you keep asking questions. You may not get business from someone you meet at a networking event, but you’ve made a connection and who knows where that may lead. A friend recently called me the "business cupid” because of my passion for helping people connect, and that’s the key; you don’t always have to be the best at what you’re doing, it’s your passion that people recognize.
Just Be Yourself!
A lot of people like to think of networking as an event, but that is very far from the reality of networking; opportunities are all around us! I have met and connected with people in every kind of industry, every kind of job from all over. My network has been created from business, personal, community involvement, church, my kids’ activities, business associations, and so much more. I'm always networking! Even if you are not a super outgoing person there’s always chances to build relationships even when you least expect it. Just be yourself because that is the most important aspect when it comes to building new networking connections.
Networking doesn’t have to be intimidating, in fact, don't even think of it as networking. Think of it as just meeting someone new, asking questions, building a relationship. Don't go in trying to sell a product or service. Just listen to the one you are meeting and let it go from there. Always follow up after a connection with a personal note, and make sure the person you meet remembers you. An important piece of advice I would give from my many years in sales is to work on your one minute story to brand yourself. That is what sets you apart from everyone else, and in a room full of hundreds of people that unique story is what will make you memorable.
Networking Doesn’t Have to be Intimidating
Early in my career I was intimidated by people of a higher status or position than me. However, what I’ve noticed is that often times they are there doing the same as you; looking for ways to grow and better their business. I have gotten over this challenge of intimidation by just continuing to meet people I don't know by saying “Hi”, introducing myself, asking questions, and LISTENING! Don’t always just sit there waiting for an opportunity to speak. Really listen to what the other person is saying because it shows that you are there for more than just personal benefit.
Always remember that your network is your friend! You've got to continue to work it. Meet new people to add to your network. The friends that you make in your network are your biggest referral source. But make sure it goes both ways - you must continue to help those in your network by referring them and showing them that you are a reliable connection.