The Art of Networking to Grow Your Company
They say it’s not about what you know, but about whom you know. While that is not necessarily the case, there is some merit to the old tongue in cheek statement.
Regardless of how adept you are in your field, networking is the name of the game if you hope to grow your business. Whether it’s making new deals, landing big clients, or developing new partnerships, your network of entrepreneurs, service providers, professionals, and business people can have a direct impact on the scale of your organization.
Here are 7 simple steps you can follow to improve your networking skills, approach new relationships, and grow on both a personal and professional level.
1. Don’t wait for business professionals to come to you. Be proactive in developing your relationships. Seek out those companies, entrepreneurs and professionals that you want to work with, those who might compliment your business, businesses that may benefit from your services, and anyone who can help you grow.
2. Network with a focus on being of service to others, not just with the intent of serving your own interests. Folks like to do business with people they know, like, and trust. The most optimal way to develop that kind of relationship is to engage in an authentic and helpful way.
Granted, trust takes time to build; however, insincerity will help make certain that you never get there at all. Once you have created a connection and developed a relationship, you can then begin to suggest, or negotiate, a working relationship.
3. Be authentic. Networking often feels insincere at best, and narcissistic at worst. Because of that, many hesitate to network, feeling concerned that they might come across as pushy, needy, or self-serving. It is easy to reach out, be friendly, and be useful to those we know; there is no reason we can’t do the same in a business setting with people we don’t know- yet.
4. While it may seem counter to authenticity, do some research on those you are trying to connect with. Check out their website, learn about the company history, and find out more about their products or services.
While you’re at it, research them on a personal level, as well. See if you can get a feel for who they are and where their interests lay. Chances are you may find they are not a good fit after all- but sometimes you find a common ground with which to create a connection point.
5. Engage. Once you know something about the business or person with whom you wish to connect, you can then reach out and get to know them. Remember, this is about engagement.
The great news is, your opportunities for networking are not limited to conferences and events (though these are obviously terrific opportunities); now you can use social media to interact with others. You can comment on their blog, video, podcast, or posts. Share, re-tweet and ask questions. I know you’ve heard it a million times before, but I’ll say it again: treat it somewhat like a cocktail party. Mingle, interact, share stories and information, ask questions, and avoid making the entire conversation about yourself.
6. Give as much, if not more, than what you get. Networking is about the mutual benefit of all those involved. “WOW” them. Make a suggestion they might find helpful, or gift them with some of your talent. Offer to help out, free of charge. Think of these efforts as an investment in your future.
7.Volunteer. Often there are great networking opportunities in volunteer work. Not only do you get to rub elbows, and become friendly, with others who have a similar mindset, but you may also get to show off your skills and talents.