There’s nothing easy about networking. At least not when you’re starting out. Rejection can be a tough thing to overcome. As can breaking into a new industry or established social/professional network.
That’s because networking is a skill. There’s steps, rules, etiquette that you need to understand, master and follow religiously.
Are you ready?
Let’s find out by reading through the following 8 networking tips:
1. Figure out your Top 20 List.
Few business owners and marketers take the time to actually write down a list of the 20 people who can have the most influence on their business. These contacts are the chosen ones. The people who can put you in touch with the best suppliers, distributors, media, etc.
These are the people who have the power to help you take your business to the next level. Keep in regular (read: monthly) contact with these folks and never refuse them a favor if you can help it.
2. Determine 50 – 100 people you want to know (or know better) in the future.
This is your list of potentials. Those whom you may not yet know, or who you don’t socialize much with currently. They may have helped you out of a jam or two, and you may have done so for them.
Make sure they’re on your social-sphere and make an effort to talk to them at events. Also, make sure these folks are invited to any gatherings you’re hosting. Always be comparing these folks with the Top 20 List to determine where they fit best relative to your current needs.
3. Keep in touch with everyone else regularly too.
This could be as simple as a happy birthday email; perhaps another at Christmas or some other holiday. Wish them well and make yourself available should they need something. Newsletters and other mass mailings are also another great idea.
4. Don’t assume you’re beneath helping someone of prominence.
One of my relatives found himself at a networking event with literally hundreds of big industry CEOs a few years back. He told me he felt like a fish out of water, being just a lowly small business owner in the big kid’s playground.
Turns out, he had the power to change the lives of a regional manager of the Target chain: the man’s kid suffered from a rare condition called hemiplegia; a disorder that his sister-in-law specializes in treating. Imagine how indebted that CEO know feels toward him for helping the man’s child. Nobody is above your help, your friendship, your loyalty.
5. Be different.
How sick are all of us of dealing with the “Corporate Drones” of the world? Most of us know enough of these people to fill a small stadium. The rest of us simply ignore their boring existence.
Don’t be a boring, fake, phony balogne. Just be yourself. Tone it down a bit if you’re a potty mouth or like telling dirty joke whereever you go. But understand that personality is the only way you’re ever going to get past the gatekeeper in a contact’s mind. Most won’t listen to you without being “turned on” to you; not unless you’re already someone of power.
6. Don’t be position-minded in your networking efforts.
We’ve all heard a story about someone of importance who was shunned by someone in power on their rise to the top. Daymond John talked about being stonewalled by Oprah when FUBU was just starting their International rise. He said he was so angry, he practically regarded Oprah and her marketing goldmine as the devil incarnate.
He later realized she was so important that she likely had no idea who he was or that he was trying to get in touch with her — despite the fact he was already a multi-millionaire by that time. The point is, John is now an influencer, especially in the hip-hop community. A community that Oprah’s long be chastised for not supporting, despite being a woman of color who struggled her way to the top.
Would Daymond extend his servitude to her today, if she needed it? Would someone you treated like garbage today because they’re a lowly desk jockey help you ten years from now when they’re the CEO of a fortune 500?
7. Ask for favors by giving something first.
If a favor is owed, feel free to ask. But it’s always best to give before asking something in return. In business, it isn’t necessary to do so under the same veil you’d secretely organize the most wonderful dinner for your spouse, before asking them if it’s okay that you invest money in a new venture.
In business, it’s perfectly acceptable to outright ask someone if you can “trade favors” with them. Not only is this honest, it cuts to the heart of why you’re contacting them. Tell them you can get them a slot at the next trade show, no questions asked, but that you need to ask for something in return.
The worst they can say is “No” which they’re far more likely to do if you just ask without giving first.
8. Be gratuitous often.
The old phrase “do unto others…” needs to be your mantra if you want to succeed as a networking pro. Just ask any celebrity who’s ever made it to the top of their industry.
Give, give, and give some more. Give compliments. Give favors. Give of your time whenever you can.
Leave the no’s and excuses at the door and you’ll be much farther ahead in the decade to come.
Share your thoughts…
How many do you do currently? If not, why and are you willing to change?
Main Image Credit: Marco Manna/Flickr