13 Networking Rules You Won’t Find Anywhere Else
Every once in a while, it’s advisable to go back to the basics. You only have two things to work with: Your money and your time. So, you had better make good use of both.
Success at networking rests on a couple of concepts. One is that visibility builds credibility. The more you’re seen, the more credible you become. Credible equates to trustworthiness, reliability, sincerity, believability, and the ability to become convincing. Without these attributes its difficult to sell anything.
Secondly, people tend to want to buy from and do business with people they know and like. So, the sheer act of dependably showing up at networking opportunities translates to being predictable, which is a valuable trait. Prospects are predisposed to doing business with individuals (not companies) they like because we trust people we like.
The more you network, the better you get at it. It’s not as simple as all that, however. Follow these simple rules, overcome your reserve, and turn networking into an almost free form of marketing.
Rule #1 – Be Shy and Die. Everybody is a bit shy when they start networking. Some never really conquer it completely, they just learn to relax with practice. It helps to know that most everyone feels a bit awkward and self-conscious. Remind yourself that everyone is there for the same reason…to meet someone new. Most people are grateful you started up a conversation.
Rule #2 – Come Prepared. It’s always ridiculous to be fumbling around looking for your business cards when you make a new contact. Where did you think you were going… a pool party? Wear a jacket with two pockets. Keep your cards in the left pocket, and the cards of new contacts in your right pocket.
Rule #3 – Keep Notes on Who You Meet. Trust me, it is easy to instantly forget who you met and what you said. Before you put that new card in your pocket, make a note on the card to follow up, call for lunch, remember the lady with the red hair…whatever helps to bring it back to your mind.
Rule #4 – Never, Ever, Ever Sell at a Networking Event. There’s a name for people who start selling you something the minute they meet you. The technical term is shmuck. People will learn to avoid you. Networking is for meeting prospects, not looking like a hungry bear rifling through a dumpster.
Rule #5 – Get to Know the Decision Makers. When you run an organization you quickly get to know who the givers and the takers are. Many people get loads of benefit from membership in a networking group but never contribute to running it. Dumb. The Decision Makers in every association have clout and know where the opportunities lie. They will not make introductions, referrals, or feature you as a speaker if you just take, take, take and then disappear.
Rule #6 – The Real Payoff Comes from the Podium. Speakers get business leads from an association when they speak because it is an implied endorsement. Plus, speakers seem larger than life, smarter than everyone else, and successful. So, once you know the decision makers, you will know when they have a hole in their schedule and need a presenter. How about you? Don’t want to speak? Become the Chair of some committee that makes monthly reports. At least you’ll have a microphone in your hand every so often.
Rule #7 – Be Helpful. Start every conversation hoping to learn, “How can I help?” Everybody, including you, are there for a self-serving purpose. If you have something to offer and are willing to support others, you will build a reputation for it. Remember, people do business with people they like.
Rule #8 – Focus on the Person You’re Talking to. It’s the height of rudeness to be talking to someone and have wondering eyes, like looking over their head to see who else is in the room. I won’t name the politician who does this regularly, and he’s out of office anyhow now.
Rule #9 – Follow Up. Ask a new contact you would like to get to know the best ways to follow up. Email, Linkedin, FaceBook, phone call…there are many options. Whatever you do, do it quickly or you will be forgotten. Get together for coffee, send them leads, etc. You will find that many of the same people will turn up at different networking events, which will make you feel like you’re part of the community.
Rule #10 – Make Yourself Memorable. The best networkers know that the crowd is a blur. I’ve seen oversized reading glasses, a rose always in the lapel, always wearing a hat, a white suit, and other visuals that individuals have worn to stand out. Get creative.
Rule #11 – Network in the Food Line. For some reason, people relax and get more approachable in the refreshment line or at the bar. It also offers oddball reasons to start a conversation. “Thank goodness there’s no broccoli!” will make the person next to you smile and open up.
Rule #12 – Don’t Stick to the Table You’re Assigned to. The worst events to network at are where companies buy tables. Usually all the attendees are getting a ticket as a reward, and are not very influential (with exceptions, of course). When that happens, DO NOT sit there like you’re glued to your seat. Get up and move around and introduce yourself. (see Rule #12). If you don’t know your tablemates, introduce yourself and keep the conversation going.
Rule #13 – Don’t Join Until You Know It’s Right for You. Most organizations are hungry for members and you will feel pressure to commit. You should be able to visit a couple of times before you pay up. After that be consistent. You can’t meet everyone at one meeting. Stay in it for the long game.Many seasoned business owners will tell you there is nothing as affordable and productive as networking. You may think social media is great, but it’s hard to really make sincere, lasting, meaningful business relationships on line (I expect some push-back on that).
On the other hand, face-to-face introductions and repetitious interactions lead to consequential friendships and productive affiliations. Just yesterday I hired a long-term business friend I started networking with over 30 years ago. Ok, that took a long time, but when I needed a dependable sub-contractor, I turned to someone I could trust.
Vicki Garcia is the Co-Founder of Operation Vetrepreneur & President of Marketing Impressions, a 30+ -year- old marketing consulting firm.
Apply NOW to join Operation Vetrepreneur’s FREE Brainstorming Groups launching again in March 2019 for veteran entrepreneurs at www.veteransinbiz.com and visit https://www.nvtsi.org/ov/ for more info.