Want to know how I was able to build my business without spending anything on advertising? ... How I grew from 1 to 10 clients in under 24 hours? ... and how I created and retained an award winning team without ever paying a single salary?
I spoke to people.
I spoke to a lot of people.
Alright, article over, you can go home now!
As you've probably heard, in order to grow both personally and professionally, we need to increase our circle of influence. As we learn more about how other people's businesses operate we can build better products that suit their needs. As we meet more people, we can provide more value to others and build our reputation.
Sounds great, right? The cheapest, quickest, easiest way of doing this is to network! Now networking has gotten a bad rap over the years, with people imaging a room full of slimy sales people all trying to sneak their fingers into people's wallets.
The truth is that whilst it can be like that, there are a huge number of ways of networking properly so that it builds you both personally and professionally. In today's article, I'm going to show you how to network properly, avoid the slimy sales people, and have a blast whilst your meeting new people.
Let's Clear Up What "Networking" Even Is
According to The Merriam Webster Dictionary, networking is: “the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions;specifically :the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business”.
In laymen’s terms, that means a phone call, video call or face-to-face conversation where information is exchanged.
When I first began networking, it was sort of forced upon me; I was thrown into the fire and told to “network” with people in my industry, and I wasn’t given much guidance. Needless to say, I was uncomfortable, lacking confidence, and finding ways to avoid it at all costs.
Maybe some of you can relate?!
However, I’ve now come to really value the power of networking and connecting with new people because of the opportunities it can bring. The best networking conversations are the ones where both parties add value to teach other. Before picking up the phone or approaching someone so they can help you; take time to think about what you can offer them also.
For guidance, try making a list of any or all of the following:
- 10 skills, degrees or qualifications you possess
- 10 things you’ve accomplished or achieved
- 10 subjects you’re somewhat knowledgable about
- 10 hobbies, interests or social activities you enjoy
- 10 places you’ve travelled or events you’ve attended
- 10 movies, songs or TV shows you like or can relate to
(I stole this from Social Magnetism, check it out if you want a great guide to effective networking)
This will help ensure you have something to offer everyone you network with and that the conversation is more engaging since it doesn’t need to be 100% business focused.
People bond and feel more connected through common interests or experiences, so be sure to be yourself and share some of your personality along with what makes you special! One of the most powerful networking practices is to provide immediate value to a new connection. This means the moment you identify a way to help someone, take action. - Lewis Howes
Now that we’re prepared, let’s tackle the approach by answering the six basic questions of effective networking…
Who Should I Network With?
The truth of the matter is that at most networking events, you've only got 60 minutes or so to meet people. Now, that may sound like a lot, but if you're having seven-minute conversations with people, you can only realistically speak to five to six new people.
Make sure that your connecting with the right people, here's a checklist of who the right person is:
- The person/ people getting the best results in your position
- Someone who’s overcome the same challenge you’re currently facing
- Anyone who’s skills could help you with something you want to improve on
- Someone in a position you’re striving for or with an opportunity you want to be part of
- Anyone that you can help overcome an obstacle or challenge
What Should I Network On?
The biggest problem I had when I first started networking was not knowing what I should be talking about. This was such an issue I almost couldn't talk to anyone as I didn't know what to say.
Over time I built a bank of conversational topics that helped me sell my business, and make personal connections with those I was networking with. Here are my top five conversation topics:
- Goal setting / Time management/ Scheduling/ Prioritising
- Understanding the other persons emotional motivation/ business challenges/ how they are looking to progress
- New innovative changes in the industry or sector
- Mindset/ Attitude/ Overcoming obstacles/ Self-belief
- Colleagues and business partner’s backgrounds and skill sets
When Should I Network?
Finding time to network is a huge challenge for a lot of us. We've got our careers or business to run and the last thing we want to do at the end of the day is talk to new people (maybe that's just me)!
However, once I realised how vital it was to my business and building me up personally, I made time to network. Once it became a habit, everything was simple, I would stick to my routine and over time see the results. Here's how I did it:
- Make it a daily, weekly or monthly habit
- As soon as you identify a problem & are ready to take action
- During a time where you can both focus and aren’t distracted
- After you meet someone; to keep in touch and build a relationship
- Continuously to nurture and maintain an ongoing relationship
Where Should I Network?
A lot of new businesses have great products or services and ask me, "where am I going to find people interested?!" Even established businesses struggle to find places with continuous new leads that they're interested in working with.
What I found to be most effective was to simply make "meeting new people" part of my life. "Networking" didn't have to be people in suits making small-talk, it could also be at parties, at fun events. You never know who you're talking to, or who that person knows.
Some incredible places to network are:
- At networking or industry events
- During parties and social gatherings
- In a quiet place where you can focus on the other person or people
- When visiting other offices or cities
- Anywhere you have the opportunity to meet new people
Why Should I Network?
Ultimately, my biggest frustration with networking came from the fact that I didn't know why I was meeting all these new and exciting people. I didn't have a long-term strategy or any reason to be at these networking opportunities.
The biggest networking mindset shift came from when I sat down and thought about why I wanted to meet new people. Here's what I came up with:
- To exchange information and learn new skills
- To enhance our performance as we learn and grow
- To build and maintain long-term relationships
- So we realise we aren’t alone with our challenges
- Because if we’re not growing, we’re dying
How Do I Network?
Putting it all this networking knowledge into play enabled me to cheaply, quickly, and easily grow my business and become a better person (seriously, pushing my comfort zone has been transformative to my life).
My final five pieces of advice to those of you looking to grow your business, your career, or your personal life are:
- Arrange a time to speak; don’t call out of the blue and expect the best information
- Build the person on their strengths/ accomplishments and why you want to network
- Use the a basic conversational structure and be prepared with questions
- Be courteous- do not interrupt or say “ What I usually do is …..”
- Ask for specific advice; vague questions = vague answers/ specific questions = specific answers
If you run a team that would benefit from building the skillset in this article, or your an entrepreneur looking scale your business, we run workshops and coaching that empowers you to grow professionally and personally, send me a PM if you'd like more information. What's your favourite networking conversation topic?