Successful networking? In this blog post, I explain how you can successfully build a profitable and sustainable business-network.
Many of my friends feel uncomfortable at the thought of networking. For them, this goes hand in hand with a sense of obligation. They then hang around at sometimes more, sometimes less cool events that might be important to them and try, almost desperately, to make small talk. You kind of get the impression that the next root canal treatment is just about to happen at their dentist or that they have to file their annual tax-return.
Today I want to show you
- how easy it can be.
- how much fun networking is.
- what joking around has to do with successful networks.
- how you can use your “Dream 100” to do that.
- what you should avoid.
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Is successful networking a must-do?
As already mentioned, many people have a strange connection to networking. They associate the term “networking” with the fact that they have to sell themselves or chum up to people. Ask yourself: What do you associate with networking?
Let’s look into the question of why you should network at all.
Imagine the following: you are planning a challenging mountain-tour. Before you go off, you have two choices. You can go your own way and run the risk of falling foul of numerous pitfalls. Or you can go your way with friends who already know the way and who can give you useful tips. This is how you can imagine targeted networking works. Many things are easier in a team.
With friends and a supportive network, the path to your success is easier. You will receive emotional support and at the same time you can rely on other people’s experience. A good network is also a gigantic knowledge pool with real experiences and practical knowledge.
With a well-structured network of like-minded people, your journey to your goal will speed up. Goals that still seem to lie in the distant future are drawing much closer. In many respects, a network is a multiplier that is unfortunately far too often underestimated. Most people know that already… But the question that they often ask is: “How do I get access to such great people?” And it should be fun at the same time!
Start your network now!
There is one think that you should be aware of right from the start: successful networking is always a matter of person-to-person communication. No matter how successful your counterpart is, inside we are all human. Always start communicating on a personal level; no one likes to be reduced to his position or profession.
Try to find out what you can do for the other person, what he or she needs. Successful business-deals always go via a path that entails keeping in mind the emotions of the other involved parties. We love spending time with people we like; this is the same in people’s private lives as it in business.
If you can’t connect with the person across the room, don’t. Sometimes it just doesn’t fit. You don’t have to be comfortable with just anybody. Don’t get angry, just look for people who suit you. This is often best for both sides. Be aware of your own value and stand by it.
5 opportunities for successful networking
Here is a guide to how to build up a great network. It’s based on an extremely exciting article on the subject, and is my version of it.
- Get a VIP ticket for a great event!
Sounds simple, and it is. But it’s surprisingly effective. There is no faster access to influential people than through a VIP ticket. Find out which events are particularly exciting for your industry and arrange to get a VIP ticket, then surround yourself with the successful people in your industry. These tickets are an investment, but make you come across in a different light. Your future network assumes that you are already successful, because after all you have paid a great deal for exclusive access. Believe me, a VIP ticket gives you access to rooms where the real business is done on a beer mat while making small talk.
- Become the host of your own event
Find a good location and invest time and commitment. Bring successful people together. They love such situations and will love you for it afterwards. Such “masterminds” can even be extremely lucrative, if handled properly.
- Support successful people with your expertise
For successful people, time is money. What they cannot do themselves, they delegate to others. Try to build on that and make your knowledge available. This creates valuable connections, your own expert status is strengthened and you also receive references that will help you move forward.
- Work as a volunteer at events, seminars and congresses
Working as a volunteer creates countless opportunities for you to be seen by successful people at industry events. In the course of my career, I have volunteered at countless events and never regretted it; I always got much more back. In life, it is always a matter of give and take.
- Become part of an event yourself: Speak about your topic at an event as a keynote speaker
Of course, you should already be an expert in your field. You will be surprised to find that after the first talk, the next gig can follow quickly. Giving a presentation on a stage automatically increases both the quality of your performance and your perceived authority. This can be a real network-booster. Specially if you can shine with your great stage presence.
Build your network strategically
The events should have a connection to your expertise. Planning is key. Create a media calendar for the whole year. Check which events, seminars or meetings cover the topics that are important to you. Check the guestlist. Be picky. Always remember that your counterparts also judge you by your network.
Work on your “Dream 100.”
What is the “Dream 100”? The roots of the concept lie in American top-salesman Chet Holmes, who uses the term to describe the 100 most important potential contacts for your company. These can be customers, stakeholders, influencers and much more: simply people who can promote you and your company in some way. Here less is often more. If you’re looking for new opportunities to market yourself or your business, stick to your own Dream 100 and try to get them onboard. A targeted focus is better than sprinkling your information thinly everywhere!
Think carefully about how you can bring added value to these people and constantly work on your relationship with them. This will bring you by far the greatest success in the long run. Successful networking is all about brining up the discipline to consistently take the right steps. In one of my previous posts you can learn about how to build your discipline.
The art of small talk
For me, small talk is nothing more than the Austrian term “Schmäh führen”, which roughly translates to “joking around”. In other words, be relaxed and preferably yourself! Please avoid political topics, as you can find yourself on thin ice with such subjects. Talk about what is happening at the event or just ask the other person what brought him or her here today.
My most important tip: listen and ask interested questions. Successful people like to talk and are happy about listeners who show true interest in them. But they also have a great sense of when people just want to benefit from their success.
Events are usually not places where in-depth discussions are held. Make an appointment for lunch, a so-called follow up.
You can practice small talk. Use every opportunity to make small talk with the people around you. You’ll come to find out that in time, you’ll really enjoy it.
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I love successful networking
For me, networking has become second nature. I actually do it all the time. It’s almost automatic, because for me it is nothing else but communicating. Together, it is usually easier! When you are at the beginning, you should not start out completely aimlessly, but make a plan. Start where you feel comfortable, whether in personal or virtual encounters. Often, promising relationships in the real world also arise from online networking. After all, this is how online dating works.
What do you think about networking? Do you like doing it or does it make the hair on the back of your neck stand up with fright? Tell me your most impressive networking experience in the comments.