You've heard it before. "It's not what you know, but who you know." When it comes to making connections and building strong, mutually beneficial relationships, networking is the social catalyst that always delivers. As far as business building, it remains the leading skill and high achieving habit.
LaShonda Bracey, contracting guru and organizational trainer, has helped numerous entrepreneurs develop and perfect their networking skills in order to excel in business and career. She shares some tips to become an effective networker.
Identify Your Community: Before you attend at any networking event do some preliminary research and find out as much information as possible. Find out the "audience" of those who will be showing up and understand their interests. If you provide pageantry services in beauty and fashion, then showing up at the National Association of Police Organizations annual event probably won't land you closer to your ideal client.
Apply the "Rule of Sevens": Practice efficient styles of communication as a power networker. Essentially, you have seven seconds to make a first impression, 14 seconds to create interest and 21 seconds to tell your story. Practice in a mirror or record yourself on a device and ask a trusted friend or colleague to provide constructive feedback.
Be Prepared For Business: When attending networking events, be prepared with plenty of business cards and a well prepared elevator pitch. This is a value-based summary and clearly conveys what you do and the services you can provide.
Be Memorable and Authentic: The best way to be memorable is to show a sincere interest in who you are engaged with. Listen intently to what their needs are, and ask questions about their goals and the organization they work with and/or support. Make sure your personality is intriguing enough that they want to learn more about you.
Organize Your Contacts: When starting to network, list all the individuals in your personal and professional networks along with their titles and contact information. Make a note of how you know or met them, and how you can help grow their business and how they can help grow your small business.
Take Immediate Action: Take action on what you talked about at the event. Perhaps you discussed a one-on-one meeting, phone chat or some other specific invitation. Schedule a phone call or in-person meeting with previous and new contacts to gain and share information. The goal of these meetings is to build up professional relationships. Acting within 48 hours helps cement you in the other person's mind and starts building lasting relationships.
Join Networking Groups: Once you've vetted and decided to join an organization, don't just sit back and relax. Become active by perhaps joining a committee or taking a leadership role. These can be highly beneficial to the rapid progress of your business. By doing so, you'll learn more, meet more people, and make yourself "stand out" from just another face in the crowd.
Keep Contacts Current: Touch base with key decision makers every few months. By staying fresh in their minds, there is a greater chance that they will call you when they need someone with your expertise. Use a variety of methods to stay connected, such as an email, phone call or a LinkedIn message. Always express your gratitude and check in to see if there is a way you can support them.
Master The Art of Follow Up: Although you can attend scores of networking events, if you don't follow up on your hard earned contacts, it's all futile. Within 48 hours after each event, follow up even if it's just a quick e-mail saying how nice it was to meet them. Where appropriate, remind them of the products and services you provide and how you can help their organization with the value that you offer.
Stay Optimistic: It's really true that your attitude determines your altitude. As with anything, there is a process to achieve success. So as you are on your journey, make every effort to not become easily distracted and discouraged. Remember, in high achieving entrepreneurship, quitting is never an option. Your strong network will manifest an even stronger net worth!