Networking sounds so easy on paper. There are tons of articles and mentoring programs out there that give you a series of steps to follow so you can start networking and building your business. When you get out there and try it yourself, it is not as easy as they make it out to be.
The truth about networking
Here are some things you may not have heard about networking.
- First impressions are everything. Bad breath and stained clothing are the last things you want business contacts to remember. But, those will be the things they remember if that is the impression you present. You should look and present yourself as a professional at all times.
- You have to be well prepared before you make first contact. When you identify a potential client or contact, you should take the time to gather pertinent information about the person and the company they represent. Even basic information will help you build a useful conversation and make a personal connection.
- Networking is an investment. Don’t expect to introduce yourself to someone the first time and get all the benefits of networking. It is about building a relationship with a person based on trust and mutual benefit. Building that relationship takes time. After first contact, it could take several more touches before that person is ready to do business or bring you further into their trust.
- Follow-up is almost as important as first impressions. I like to say, “The Fortune is in the Follow-Up” People get busy. It is very easy for them to forget about a conversation or email they exchanged with you weeks or months ago. Keep in touch with your contacts. A simple email, a phone call, a note through snail mail, or a social media message will keep you alive in their memories.
- Don’t become a one-note conversationalist. Being an expert in your industry or niche is important. But, don’t make that the only topic of conversation you can hold. People do business with other people. Being able to have a well-rounded conversation on a number of topics is important for building trust and creating a network. And work on being more interested than interesting.
When you are networking and building that important list of contacts, you are doing it as a real person, not just as a representative of your company. Mentoring programs are an excellent way to build your skills and make networking second nature