Last week I promised I’d write a blog this week continuing the discussion on building networking skills. So, as promised, in this blog I’ll be explaining a little bit about a few things you should do once you’ve given some thought to your networking strengths and weaknesses.
As you read through these tips, think about ways you can develop these ideas into a networking strategy that makes the most of your strengths and helps you work on your weaknesses.
1. Become the host.
Whether you’ve scored yourself strongly in the area of being naturally outgoing or not, it will serve you well to volunteer to be an ambassador or visitor host for a local business networking event because it makes the networking process markedly easier–especially for those who consider themselves a bit introverted.
When you’re the host, your purpose is to make sure everybody is comfortable and you’re too busy fulfilling that purpose to stand by yourself in the corner, worrying about how much you hate meeting new people. Try it! You’ll find it much easier to meet and talk to new people.
2. Build your social capital at your desk
Thanks to technology’s continuing advances, you can also network without ever leaving your desk–online networking is an effective way to connect with potential clients and referral sources, and it can help you get more used to making connections and networking. This is one opportunity that absolutely everyone should utilize.
Keep in mind that it’s usually better to use online networking with people only after you’ve established a relationship with them by traditional means. To develop trust, respect and true friendship, it’s hard to beat in-person conversation and the occasional handshake or pat on the shoulder.
3. Offer advice to break the ice
Even if you haven’t had much practice networking, you’ll be great at breaking the ice in person or online by offering some free professional advice. Everybody wants to connect with people who can provide value to them. By offering knowledge that people can use, you make yourself a valuable connection.
For example, if you’re a marketing consultant, give your fellow networkers a couple of ideas on how they can increase the exposure of their business. Don’t go overboard; maybe share a technique you read in a magazine or tried with one of your clients. When it comes to building rapport and trust, few things do it better than solid, helpful information provided out of genuine concern for the other person.
4. Become a trusted source for quality referrals and contacts
One way to ease into networking is to provide a referral or contact. This could be a direct referral (someone you know who’s in the market for another person’s services) or a solid contact (someone who might be helpful down the road).
If you’re not sure what will come of the contact, simply state that right upfront, but then follow it up by saying that you think the connection could be helpful and briefly describe how. Doing this when networking is a great way to establish yourself as a great referral source.
Use these tips to help you start developing a networking strategy that plays up your strengths and lets you work on your weaknesses. Feel free to come back and comment about your ideas and/or experiences.