Networking Success: How Can You Be More Effective?

networking personal development soft skills Mar 15, 2010
How to be more effective at networking

I recently attended a networking event and as I met people the same theme kept coming up - "I don't really know how to do this?" or "This hasn't really worked for me yet and I don't know why. I keep hearing networking is supposed to be the best way to build a business."

I have to say that I was surprised that people at a networking event would be introducing themselves to me in this way. But then it made sense to me, their purpose to being at the event was to learn how to better network, even if they didn't realize it. 

As I spoke with these people I probed to understand what their expectations were and what they thought the networking process was all about. As I continued to converse with them we realized that they've learned some poor techniques about networking. developing effective networking skills is key to professional development, career growth and success. So if you feel uncomfortable networking, you're not sure if you're doing it right or if you're frustrated with your results, then read on.

The people you network with are your salesmen, not your prospective clients. One of the most common misconceptions about networking is that the other person is interested in buying your product or service. Think about it, if everyone there is trying to sell something, how open are they to buying?  Probably not.  Beyond that though, you want to tap into their network on behalf of you.  Did you know that most business from referrals come from "weak" connections- the people whom you have little or no connection with except through someone else?

You are there to find referrals for others. The more you give to others, the more others will pay attention to you. The more value you create for others the more others will take notice of you and spread word about you. Imagine if word gets out that you're making connections for others so they can sell their products - how many people are going to want to know you. They may even want to help you. Note: Learn more about this concept read Go-Givers Sell More by Bob Burg and John David Mann  

The first step of networking is becoming known. When you are at a networking event you're most likely meeting people for the first time. People don't buy from strangers. Either they know you or they know the reputation of the product. And if they know the product, why should they buy from you instead of someone else? They need to get to know you. The first step is meeting at the event. The real work begins later when as you follow up and get to know each other better.

The second step of networking is building trust.The principle behind networking is that most business comes from referrals and so you would like to get referrals. How do you get referrals from someone?  You get to know each other.  How will a stranger know if your product works? How does he/she know if you're going to honor agreements.

The final step is giving/asking for/receiving referrals. After you have become know and built up trust with your networking partner over several meetings, now it's time to make some connections for your partner and ask for if your partner has anyone they can refer to you. As your networking partner who their ideal client is. Get them to be specific. And you can do the same.

Probably the biggest mistake in networking is "Premature Solicitation". Networking is more like farming where you plant seeds, take care of them and see what grows. It takes time. Not every seed will grow, and not every seedling will survive. Enjoy the process and the rest will come.  

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