If you’ve read the last two posts then you know that your network is already bigger than you think – or it needs to be, and you know that it has to have the right kinds of people in it. So – what do you need to do to build it?
Strictly speaking there are as many answers to that question as there are people who need to know the answer! With that in mind we will still discover how to build a network, though you may have to change a detail here and there.
If you are not a natural networker you need to understand that you need to develop at least some skills in this area. I’ll share a shortcut soon, but you still need to participate in your own network building!
Every technique described below applies to both natural networkers and everyone else. All that changes is the degree to which you embrace each technique.
Now let’s talk about the shortcut for those who are not natural networkers. Make sure that someone who has a substantial network is in your network. Make sure that one of the few that you trust is very well connected, and that they are OK with sharing their network with you.
They may be more inclined to share their network, or more correctly bring you into it, if there is a clearly understood benefit that you bring to them and/or their network. Let them know what value you bring, help them look good to their friends by having someone like you as a resource. (Not a free resource, but a valuable and valued resource that is paid a fair price for what they do).
First, attend any formal networking events near where you work and live. Just showing up at these events marks you out is a great networker! Be prepared that your new friend might ask you questions, so be know what your answer is going to be.
Informal networking events include school and college reunions, trade shows (especially where you are not a stall holder), public talks held at a local University or other business premises.
They are great for making connections with the members of your extended network – yes, you can catch up with customers too, and these events are ideal for widening your sphere of influence.
You widen your sphere of influence by (for example) sponsoring local events or teams, by being a part of the social fabric of your community.
Speaking of ‘social’, you also make use of online social networks. There are many social networks now, and you can even build your own via WordPress and a few plugins! You can spread as far as you want or as targeted as you need by being particular about who you accept as friends and what groups you belong to.
In principle, any gathering of people, either where you are or via an internet connection, is a possible networking opportunity. Now here is a bonus for you: remember that they are ‘networking’ opportunities, not ‘sales’ opportunities.
Most people attend so they can build their network, not so they can listen to your sales pitch. If you discover that you can help solve a problem for someone (the basis of all marketing is being able to solve a problem for someone and telling them) then arrange to meet them at a convenient time and place to explain your solution. You may give them your elevator pitch while you describe your solution, but don’t turn it into a sudden presentation. You will lose more sales than you gain.
And that’s networking. In principle, anyway. All you have to do is practice it, or have someone practice on behalf of your business.
What are your best networking experiences? Funny, foul or fantastic, share your story and learn from others.