To Network Like an All-Star, Don’t Network. Instead, Focus on Building Relationships.
To become a powerful networker, it is critical to first understand that you DON’T build strong relationships by networking.
Networking is not even a term used to define human interaction. It evolved in the 1950s as a technical term for connecting computers, so they could communicate with other computers in case of a nuclear attack.
Forging strong relationships in your personal and professional lives requires an approach that many people fail to understand and embrace.
What is THAT approach?
It requires that we seek out and attempt to establish mutually beneficial, “symbiotic” relationships where BOTH parties gain value from that relationship.
To that end, to be effective at building strong relationships requires that you care enough about others to learn their pain points. Then go ahead and figure out how to provide solutions to the problems keeping them up at night.
This holds true whether you are in the midst of a job search, are “networking” for your career, or looking to build a rolodex of relationships to plan, launch and grow a viable business.
Start by being a FACILITATOR. That means that there is power in bringing people together by introducing folks that can benefit from you making introductions to others.
To advance your own reach, you also want to become known as a subject matter in your field. This can be accomplished by writing a blog, getting articles you have written published, write a book, serving on panel discussions, give talks, and become actively involved in your local community by doing volunteer work.
Start by writing down your IDEAL TARGET profile.
Write down in complete detail the attributes and characteristics of the type of people that you want to meet with the following details:
* What industries / sectors do they work in?
* What professional clubs, groups, and associations do they belong to?
* What are their interests and passions?
* Where did they go to High School…College…Graduate school?
* What professional certifications do they have?
* What types of professional training & development do they seek?
If you don’t know who you are attempting to target, you are in effect flying blind. That never works when you are trying to forge new relationships.
Next, create a strategic networking plan of attack. Why? A plan that isn’t written down is only a DREAM.
Once you have a written plan you then have a strategy to follow including a calendar of the events you know you need to attend i nthe next 30, 60, 90+ days.
Your strategic networking plan should include:
1.) Your ideal target profile. Sound familiar?
2.) List all of the relevant industries that your ideal customer belongs to and the key industry associations that serve these industries, and the upcoming events planned by these organizations. You now have a calendar of upcoming events for your ideal targets. THIS is what it means to network STRATEGICALLY.
3.) List all of the business networking groups or trade associations that your ideal prospect/contact belongs to.
4.) What strategies do you currently pursue to find prospects, then qualify those leads in order to pursue in your new client acquisition efforts?
Craft a truly compelling and engaging “Elevator Pitch.”
1.) Clarify your target. You’ve done this already, right?
2.) Put it on paper. Again, it isn’t a viable working document until you’ve documented it.
3.) Format it. A good pitch should answer three questions:
– Who are you?
– What do you do?
– What are you looking for?
4.) WIIFM! Tailor the pitch to your audience, not you. When you talk to people at the WIIFM level you are simply addressing people’s primary concern: “What’s In It For Me.”
5.) Eliminate industry jargon. Slang doesn’t help you.
6.) Practice, practice, practice (then get feedback.)
7.) Prepare a few variations in case you have more than one ideal target.
8.) Nail it with confidence. That’s where practicing it comes in. Ultimately there is no greater power than the “DOING” so get out there and PITCH yourself.
Be sure to brand yourself. A “brand” is a promise that every experience that people have with you is consistently UNIQUE, INVALUABLE, and MEMORABLE. What makes you all of these things? In other words, you build your own brand by defining your unique selling proposition (USP.) Your USP is the collection of all of your passions, strengths, skills, background, experience, education, training that distinguishes you from EVERYONE else.
To network does not mean you just got out to any and all events that you’re invited to. you need to have a plan of attack and that comes from developing a strategy but only after you define who you want/need to meet, build your brand, become an expert and focus on serving others by making introductions and solving people’s problems.
No problem, right? It all starts with caring about others and NOT trying to SELL. Build TRUST instead. The strong relationships will follow.
Happy NOT networking!
Ethan Chazin, The Compassionate Executive Coach, Management Consultant, Business Coach
No Organization is Too Small to Plan BIG.