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I’ve said it time and time again, networking is a skill. It’s learned, it takes practice and people aren’t born being good networkers. Let’s take a look at a few things you can do to really stand out and learn how to be an amazing networker.
Amazing networkers try to get to all the meetings or as many as possible. If it’s a weekly meet up, then make sure that time is sacrosanct in your diary. There are a number of reasons for this.
It takes time to get to know people in your network. If you aren’t showing up, you can’t expect to get to know them and you can’t build the trust that is required. If you aren’t a regular attendee, you’ll miss visitors and the opportunity to welcome in new members.
Attendance also speaks to consistency and this reflects on who you are as a supplier or partner. Would you want to refer someone who has sporadic attendance and you can’t speak to their reliability and engagement? For me lack of attendance tends to make me question reliability, trustworthiness, integrity, engagement and interest. I’m very clear on my values, so whoever I refer in has to be aligned with my values and how I respond to my clients.
There are lots of different types of networking groups. If you are a part of a referral networking group such as Venture Business Network, BNI or Elevation Construction Network, as an example, members of these groups are looking for referrals.
The only way you are going to be able to make referrals to others in the network is by attending, getting to know them, understanding what they do, who they are looking to talk to and how you can connect them to people in your contact sphere.
Once you are comfortable and ready to make the connections on behalf of a fellow networker, be open to offering support and making those vital introductions. You can read more follow up tips here.
Great news – you are well on your way to becoming an amazing networker!
Buy Within The Network
It’s always good to be able to purchase the service or product of other businesses around the table in a network, be it in your own group or indeed in the wider network.
Always look to see if there is someone within your network that can fulfil a product or service need that you have. If you need to follow procurement guidelines, e.g. to get a website done, you may find that there are a few suppliers within your networks, so you can write up a brief and send it to a few of the members to respond to.
You might need to get training organised for your team, so is there someone in your network who can fulfill this requirement for you?
Try to form a habit of going to the networks first. People will really appreciate this and they’ll learn by your positive example. If you aren’t sure if there is a good connection, then ask the chair, host or manager if there is a suitable company to be introduced to.
Something I think that is very much overlooked is sharing out the details of the network and who is in them amongst the rest of the company or team. I really feel it’s so important to update the team at monthly meetings about the networks you are involved in. Tell them what you are doing, what you are saying, ask for input for the company presentation slots when they arise.
Share out the details of who else is in the network and remind the team that if they have to purchase a service, to connect in with you and ask for guidance about who to approach. This way, it’s not just up to you to generate referrals, but you can include all the other departments in the company as well.
For example: let’s say the marketing department wanted to get a new photoshoot done, new graphics and a new brochure done. You’re the MD of the company, so it’s not your area, but you can be sure to connect ‘your people’ with the appropriate people in the network.
If you’ve used the services of someone in your network, be sure to give them a testimonial. This can be a few lines on email that they can use on their website. You could also go online and leave them a Facebook or Google review to help with their search rankings.
It’s always great to hear live testimonials in meetings as well. There is nothing like a live or virtual round of applause for a job well done and being recognised for great work delivered. This offers social proofing and in turn makes it much easier for others to recommend your company to their clients.
Taking a picture of the product in use can be a nice way to connect back with a company in your network. If it’s a service that has been bought, then think about how best to reflect this. Perhaps it’s you smiling or your team smiling after using the service and then you post out a testimonial on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Instagram – or indeed whatever channels the person and the company are on. Have a look and point the messaging towards the right channels.
Tip: Be sure to tag the person and the company, if possible, so they are aware of the ‘shout out’.
Social Media Etiquette
Don’t forget to like, share and comment on posts that you see from your fellow members. Comments are gold and what helps the posts reach wider audiences; your fellow networkers will really appreciate it if you take the time to leave a short message of support.
Follow your fellow networkers’ social media channels, both company profiles and personal profiles. I would also go a step further and get a list and send it out to anyone in your team and ask them to do the same.
For me this has a two-fold benefit:
a) It educates your team as to who is in the network so they have the companies top of mind when the are looking for new suppliers.
b) It also helps train them in the steps of good networking practice. Part of what we are all trying to achieve when we are out networking is to keep ourselves top of mind…so we need to be ready to keep others top of mind.
If your phone is anything like mine, you’ll have an abundance of whatsapp groups for the different networks you are in. I don’t subscribe to being glued to my phone, but I do take a few minutes, twice a day or so to do a quick scan of the messages. Very often someone puts out a request for an introduction, a connection, a contact, so I try to help and offer introductions.
Within online communities there are frequently requests for suppliers, so if I know of someone who fits the bill, I am sure to recommend companies within my networks and tag them into the post. This helps get their name out there and if you offer a testimonial because you’ve used their product or service, then you are really offering that extra bit of social proofing.
A Simple Question
But most of all. The most powerful question you can ask as a networker is: How Can I Help You? If you start here and open the conversation up, you’ll generally find a grateful fellow networker who will explore how you can help them and in turn they will want to know how they can reciprocate this help and support your business.
You can also read about a few other quick strategies in my blog 5 Quick Win Strategies for Networking. I hope that these few tips will help you on your journey to becoming an amazing networker. It’s not difficult, but it does require discipline and a desire to be the best you can be.
Staying Connected With NetworkingJean
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