Networking — can’t live with it, can’t start a business without it! Whether you’re an early-stage entrepreneur or a certified veteran of the business world, you know that networking is an essential part of being successful in business. After all, making connections and building relationships is a crucial skill in life — why wouldn’t it be important in business too?
But networking isn’t always easy. We get it — it’s already challenging to be a new business owner in that critical start-up phase, and the last thing you want to do is add another networking event to your schedule. But every hand you shake and connection you make is important — you never know who could be your next star client or customer.
That’s why today, we want to share with you our best advice for making your way in the networking world. In this article, we’re going to take you through some of the best wisdom we’ve picked up from the experts — industry titans like Larry Benet a.k.a. “The Connector” and Frank Agin, professional sports networker.
If you’re a business owner, early-stage entrepreneur, or looking for a new gig, you’re not going to want to miss this one.
Why Is Networking So Important for Entrepreneurs, Anyway?
We can’t emphasize this enough: Networking may be the most valuable skill set you can have, and it can help you throughout any point in your personal and business life.
Let’s look at it like this: What would life be like without our relationships – if you didn’t have friends or family to laugh with and lean on when times get tough? That doesn’t sound great to us! At the end of the day, the relationships and connections you have with others are all you have.
It’s exactly the same in business. Is it technically possible to run a business from behind a computer screen, finding clients on social media and reaching out to them via quick emails? Sure, but imagine how much richer your life could be — how many more lives you could genuinely impact — if you could look your clients in the eyes and build true friendships.
That’s why networking is so important. People do business with people — not fancy logos or even well-run Twitter and Instagram accounts. Not only that, but other business owners, advisors, and experts are much more likely to partner with you to make your business even bigger and better when they have a personal connection with you. You just can’t underestimate the value of cultivating strong business relationships.
And that’s not all. Forbes shared an incredible top 10 reasons why networking is important. We won’t go into detail about all of them (you can check out the full list here) but one point that sticks out is networking can help you discover avenues for new opportunities. By making connections with other industry professionals, you can find all kinds of new ways to expand your business that you may not have thought of. Network partners may show you to new clients, technology, events, advice, and countless other helpful resources and opportunities that can make a huge difference in your business.
So how have you been networking? Are you reaching out to other small business owners in your area? Do you attend networking events? Are you communicating with others in your industry? Are you building a strong team who can pull together to make your business great? If not, it’s time to get started!
Okay, But How Do I Get Started with Networking?
We’re glad you asked! The truth is, getting started networking is not as difficult as it sounds.
The very first thing you can do is get on LinkedIn, which is built specifically for professionals seeking to expand their networks. LinkedIn is a powerful tool if you use it correctly. In fact, The School of Greatness podcast was born on LinkedIn. Before we had a team or even a website, Lewis Howes reached out to highly accomplished people through LinkedIn. Those very first interviews came out of those interactions, and the podcast grew from there.
But that’s not all! There are plenty of other things you can start doing even today to become the most successful marketer you can be. Networking expert Frank Agin has a list of the top 10 things you need to enter the networking world — these tasks are a perfect place to start, especially if you feel overwhelmed.
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#1: Get Involved
The most important thing you can do is get outside. You can’t effectively network from behind your desk! Find ways to engage with others in your industry and community. Are there any networking events geared specifically to your niche? Thousands of industries, non-profits, Masterminds, and other organizations host conferences, mixers, and other events. Why not try attending?
Not sure how to take that first step? These networking platforms are a great way to get connected to people in your industry:
- Slack Communities
- Twitter (We recommend searching hashtags to find people who participate in your industry.)
Even if you don’t have an event to go to right now, you can still work the pavement and meet others in your network. If you run a small business, reach out to other shop owners around you — you might be surprised at the collaboration that becomes possible! If you have your own coaching program, connect with other coaches. Find your tribe, and remember that to have good friends you need to be a good friend.
#2: Think About How You Present Yourself
If you want others to be interested in networking with you, it’s important to think about how you’re presenting yourself to the world. We don’t mean that you should cultivate any specific image or that you need to be fake. As always, it’s important to be authentic! But a little polish goes a long way toward attracting potential business associates.
Whether you’re going door to door or attending networking events, consider your appearance — are you dressed professionally? And think about your speech — do you have a strong 30-second pitch for yourself and your business? If not, it might be time to put one together! A strong first impression will absolutely help you make and keep new friends in your industry.
This one is simple, but it might be the single most important thing you can do: Listen to others. Have you ever been in a room with a pushy salesperson who doesn’t seem interested in anyone else? You don’t want to do business with that person, right? People like to feel heard and cared for, and you can make a strong positive impression just by being a good listener.
And that’s not to mention the fact that you can learn a lot by listening! Our podcast and brand are based around having powerful conversations with inspiring people, and we’ve learned so much just by listening to what they have to say. We believe listening and absorbing the wisdom of others has made us stronger and smarter, and it’s all because we took the time to listen.
#4: Discover Common Ground
This one goes hand-in-hand with listening. When you make new friends in the industry, it’s important to look for opportunities that could be beneficial to both of you. That’s why you look for common ground. Take a look at your interests — your likes, dislikes, business practices, goals, and visions for your companies — and see how you can help each other out. When you discover common ground with others in your network, you open up incredible new opportunities to expand and help others do the same.
Doesn’t it feel good when someone remembers your name? You can do that for others, and just through that simple act of remembering, you can create genuine friendships, which gives you incredible opportunities to build business relationships.
Remembering small details like another person’s name, their spouse’s name, whether or not they have children, or their key interests helps them to feel known, liked, and trusted. In turn, they’ll be much more inclined to get to know, like, and trust you. It doesn’t take much effort or time to memorize a name, and it will help you to make real connections.
#6: Follow Up
Just as it’s important to remember someone’s name and key details about them, it’s also important to remember to follow up after your initial meeting. Whether you meet with someone one-on-one or you’re introduced at a networking event, remember to follow up appropriately. Make sure to take their business card, and be sure to give them a phone call or send an email before too much time passes by. By following up, you show potential partners that you’re serious about doing business with them.
Just as you participate in networking to improve your business, it’s important to remember that others are doing the same. Ask yourself how you can be a valuable connection for someone else. What do you have to contribute to other businesses?
As with all business dealings, there has to be give and take. Remember — you have to spend money to make money; likewise you have to invest time, energy, and perhaps financial resources into others in order to receive in return. Don’t be afraid to share contacts, advice, and even simple encouragement with those in your network — you may be surprised at the return on your investment.
#8: Ask for Assistance
As business owners, it’s easy to fall into the trap of trying to do everything ourselves. We strive for perfection every day, and we want to bring our best to the businesses we’ve worked so hard to build. While it’s great to be so dedicated and to really give it our all (especially when we’re in the start-up phase), it’s essential to ask for help when we need it.
The truth is, no one of us can have all the answers. At some point, you’re likely to run into a speed bump that you’re not able to get over by yourself. That’s when you need to reach out to others in your network and dare to ask for the help you need. You can learn some of the most valuable lessons by making mistakes and asking for help, so don’t be afraid to do it if you need to.
#9: Show Appreciation
We all learned the magic words, “Please and thank you!” when we were little, but we’re here to tell you they are still essential in the business world. A simple “please” before a request and a “thank you” upon receiving an answer speaks volumes about your professionalism and attitude when it comes to working with others. People want to work with others who treat them with kindness and respect — it’s as simple as that!
#10: Be Patient
Networking is an ongoing process; you’re not going to be “finished” overnight. In fact, you’re never finished networking — and that’s a good thing. Networking is an adventure, and just like any adventure, it’s more about the journey than any specific destination. You can continue making new business associates and friends throughout your whole life as an entrepreneur, so remember to keep going to those events, being friendly, and creating connections — you never know who’s going to bring along your next big opportunity.
Ready to Network Like a Pro?
And there you have it! The top 10 best tips you can use to start networking like a pro today. Whether you’re a networking novice or a business boss, there’s always room to improve your networking skills and up your game when it comes to building new business relationships. At the end of the day, your contacts are all you have, and they’re incredibly valuable to you as you grow and scale.
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