Developing a personal and professional network is important for business success.  Essentially the you cannot sell your products and services to yourself.

But, why network specifically?

Networking is a more efficient way to reach someone compared to cold calling.  Cold calling is necessary because developing a network is not an immediate solution to business deals. However, cold calling is inefficient because you spend most the year time leaving voice mails and speaking with receptionists or assistants rather than a decision maker.

Developing goals while networking is essential as aimless networking can lead to a wasted time in conversations that may be enjoyable but don’t really get you closer to a business deal or developing partnerships.

What are some goals for networking?

Bring awareness to a product or service

Find a business problem

Find employees to hire

Develop partnerships

Research competition

In the COVID world finding network opportunities can be difficult but they are definitely still out there. 

There are two ways to network- (1) Online and (2) In Person. 

You can either go to networking events in person or you can find contacts through friends and family.  

Write a purpose statement for going to a specific networking event or before reaching out to friends of friends or friends and family members.

Before going to an event write an elevator pitch for what you want to talk about.  The description of your product in service must be succinct.  The reason is you don’t have a lot of time while networking to talk to someone. Also, in that statement have a call to action such as take a look at your website schedule a meeting or something else. Although most of your time will be spent getting to know the person or having small talk, you’ll have a short window to talk about your subject and must make most of it. 

Purchase business cards and hand them out during your networking event. It is great to find an opportunity but if you don’t have a good way to communicate with someone again then you will move the relationship forward. 

Search for networking events online. There are meetups, trade shows, what is the name up of local businesses group,

If going in person, Dress business casual for the networking event.

When meeting someone you will shake hands and speak a little bit about yourself. 

Focused on asking questions to qualify if the person you’re meeting is a right fit for your networking goals. Minimize the time spent with people who don’t fit this criteria. That said, don’t be rude to the someone who doesn’t meet your criteria but just don’t talk to that person the whole time. 

When networking be casual and friendly.  Don’t focus too much on business but rather focus more on the relationship and be genuinely excited about sharing your information when you get the opportunity. 

Take their business card if they have one.  During the conversation say their name multiple times so that you remember it.

Spend more time asking questions than talking about your product or service. Your goal is qualification and setting next steps for a discussion.

In a big reason to network is to find a business problem or to promote awareness for your product are service.

If they are a good fit then set a meeting for a follow up discussion which could be a phone call, a video conference meeting, or an in person meeting.

Add all the contacts that you have met on Linked-In and send them ‘Thank You’ messages for connecting.

Prepare for the follow-up meeting and create a presentation. Additionally, list out any questions that you can think of initially to be prepared. 

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