Networking is a powerful skill to learn as a leader. It can provide ample opportunities in business, whether it’s a new client, referral, exposure, or connections.
But it can be a daunting task for some. People who are shy, un-confident, or introverts might have difficulty networking which means they could lose out on opportunities to people who appear to be more confident, even if their skills or ability are the same.
These tips are designed to improve your communication skills to help you become an effective networker.
Use your friends and current contacts
Cold networking can feel unnerving as it involves reaching out to people you don’t know, introducing yourself and your business, and starting a conversation. You can cold network at events or online, but either way, taking that first step is challenging, so our tip - start small.
Use your current contacts, whether that’s friends, family, or colleagues, and ask them to introduce you to their contacts. You’ll be surprised by the people you may be connected with.
Leverage social media
LinkedIn is a particularly powerful tool to connect with people of similar interests, fields of work, or studies. Connecting via this platform can help you to introduce yourself and your business before meeting in person. A lot of people use LinkedIn to build connections, so make sure your first message stands out and includes helpful information outlining who you are and the reason you would like to connect.
Always be networking
If you plan to go to a business event, if possible, find out who will be in attendance in advance. Research individuals who you would like to connect with and prepare conversation starter topics. Preparation will also help field off any nerves that may pop up.
Networking also doesn’t need to happen at a business event and doesn't need to follow a set formula. Take every opportunity to network whether it’s at the gym, at a coffee shop, or at the mall. You never know, your next conversation could be a new client or at least a new connection.
Let the other person speak
Listening is a powerful tool in communication and helps you to truly understand what others have to say. If you’re constantly talking, you never know what the other person has to offer. So, when networking, ask open-ended questions and let the conversation flow naturally.
Plus, listening and letting other people speak, shows an active interest in them whilst also taking the pressure off you if you’re not particularly confident at conversing.
Say their name
Dale Carnegie’s ‘How to Win Friends & Influence People’ had this as a basic principle – “people like to hear their own name”. When you meet new people, use their name immediately in a conversation, it makes them more comfortable and shows you’re paying attention, plus it’s a great tool for remembering a person's name if you meet them again in the future.
Sharing information is a great way to build your credibility and keep track of your contacts for future use. So, if you spoke to a possible client about a business problem, follow up with how your business could offer support. A genuine follow-up shows a person who is confident, proactive, and professional and it’s a strong stepping stone for relationship building.
Even if a person doesn’t fit your direct needs now, they may in the future, and if you have a relationship they’ll more than likely reach out when they do.
The world today is built on connections, whether it’s with friends or colleagues, and these connections have been formed many times through networking whether you realize it or not. So, don’t put additional pressure on yourself when business networking, as you’ve been networking all along.
Networking can be fun, if you are able to overcome any fears, you can open yourself up to a world of opportunities to enhance your business.