Networking is the key to success as an entrepreneur. This is an age old comment and I’m sure most of you already know this. I plan to help you understand it and actually apply it in the real world. I have a few things I like to do when I’m networking with people. Below I list a series of networking weaknesses I usually encounter and what I do to avoid these mistakes.
I’ve always been rather terrible at networking. I have no trouble conversing with people but its the “where to start” problem that has always been one of my weaknesses. I’m never sure if its worth their while and will often talk myself out of starting the conversation as to not seem pushy.
- Introduce yourself – Simple but difficult. Most of the time they are in the same position as you and will likely have some relief that someone started the conversation. If you think of introductions from your point of view as the one someone is approaching, most often, you are not offended and you are interested in what the person is saying – unless it’s a sales pitch.
That leads me to the next point. Be authentic. If you’re attempting to make a meaningful connection, forget the sales rhetoric. Attempt to get to know the person and literally leave business out of it. Get their info and make a plan to contact them later.
A second weakness of mine seems to be my memory. I will remember faces and general conversations but I seem to forget some of the most important things during an introduction.
- Get their name AND remember it! – One of my biggest weaknesses was that I was in such a hurry to learn about them I would literally forget their name 3 minutes into the conversation. At that point, it’s far too embarrassing to say “what was your name again?” If you need to do this, you risk insulting the person by basically saying you haven’t been paying attention to the conversation.
- If this happens even after you’ve thought about it, find a way to relearn their name without alarming them that you’ve forgotten. On tactic I use is I introduce them to someone else without mentioning their name and allow them to fill in the blank. Sometimes, it is a little transparent, but it’s better than the alternative.
Another weakness of mine is follow-through. After I make these connections, I find that I fail in the area of following up to reinforce those connections. Even after all of the hard work to make the connection in the first place, I let it fizzle out into nothing. This is an entrepreneur’s biggest mistake.
- When someone give you their business card, turn it over and write the date and a brief couple of points about what you talked about. Later, when you have access to your computer, attempt to connect with them on social platforms especially LinkedIn. You are basically building your rolodex in a modern template. Next, reach out to that person and thank them for the time and open the door for further discussion. Find a way to provide relevant valuable content for that person and you will find your networking efforts will become much more successful.
Finally, an entrepreneur needs to understand that even after they build a network, they cannot expect the network to work for them on its own. It requires constant follow up, constant updating, and consistent information. You don’t want to berate people with your ideas however you also don’t want them to completely forget who you are in the first place. This is where the personal connection will help.
You MUST reach out to your network constantly to keep the relationships alive. The most successful people I know always remember my name, what I’m doing, and usually its current information even if I didn’t provide it to them. That to me is the ultimate goal to build a valuable network. I often wonder how they even have time to remember who I am, much less what I’m up to.
What do you do in your network? What are your tactics? Leave a comment!