How to Network Like a Pro
By: Mike Cavanaugh
“Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.” – Raymond Chandler
Networking effectively is one of the most powerful tools for professionals. Often overlooked and extremely underestimated, networking creates and cultivates relationships with the people necessary for business growth. Most professionals understand the basic points of networking, to bring plenty of business cards, dress for the occasion and portray confidence, to name a few. Here we will delve into some of the finer points that are crucial to creating strong referral partners.
Everything you needed to learn about networking we learned on the first day of kindergarten, Help and Share, the people that are successful networkers understand the concept of assistance and collaboration.
Anything new requires practice and experience. In the case of networking, there are many ways to start small before accelerating up to the big leagues. Being comfortable with yourself, your mission and needs will aid in building a strong presence in the networking community.
Start by networking online; social media platforms such as LinkedIn are great to gauge your current professional connections while expanding past your immediate network into other relevant networks and groups.
Meeting a group of new people can be daunting. Tag along with a co-worker to a networking event. Once you have met a few people and attended a few events, start going on your own. Many times the people you meeting during these events will be a part of or know of other networking groups. This is a great opportunity to be a guest of your new connection to a networking event, all the while diversifying your own network.
Networking is like exercising (for most, that is). At times it can loom as an obligation, something you may even dread having to do. However, once it is over, you feel much better and a little more accomplished at the end of the day. Once you have a few networking events under your belt, it will become something you look forward to and anticipate. Donâ€™t make excuses or put it off, make time for networking, as it will result in a large payoff to your business.
Network Proactively, Not Reactively:
Consistency is the key with networking. One event will not build you a pipeline of connections, it takes time and effort as does anything else. Think of it this way; you are seeking to not only build a network, but find trust in other professionals. Before you can ask for a favor or a referral, trust must be built.
Many underestimate the purpose of networking, often reactively networking opposed to proactively. If you have found yourself in a professional or business related rut, you will have the connections and network to optimize your options. Whereas those who have underestimated the importance of networking consistently, will not have these options or connections to their aid.
Diversify Your Network:
Knowing the right people and attaining the right connections can get you places you may not be able to reach otherwise. Go outside of your usual networking group; there is just as much power in a diverse network as there is in a large network. Donâ€™t pigeonhole your network to only like-minded individuals in your industry.
Diversifying to a broader network will be beneficial in multiple ways. By opening up to individuals outside of your industry, you can become someone who others will want to network with. As your network expands, you will be able to create connections between people, which becomes a major value add for those around you. As you prove your worth, people will begin to refer you business. So, although there may not be instant gratification in expanding your network, the long term payback will prove well worth the effort.
Build Relationships with Competitors:
Most businesses have competitors who offer similar services that are not quite the same. When this is the case, it can be great for business to build trust and a direct connection with those similar companies. This established connection can be fruitful for both parties as oftentimes potential clients land just outside your range of services but could fall into your counterpartâ€™s. When both leaders become comfortable referring each other, everyoneâ€™s business increases.