If you are going to be a location independent entrepreneur you must learn to network. I define networking first by throwing a hyphen in the middle of the word and turning it to “Net-work.”
I want you to think of it as creating a physical net that you have to put to work to achieve goals; sounds pretty one-sided doesn’t it?
I’m not done, you have to make sure that you are ready and willing to be put to work for your net as well. This isn’t about quid pro quo, “you owe me one” or “you scratch my back and I scratch yours.” Instead I want you to focus on reciprocity.
“I help because I can and when I need help, the community / universe will act in kind.”
On the journey towards better networking I have come across a series of questions that come up fairly frequently. I’ve decided to answer 10 of them in this post and if needed am prepared to answer more– Just ask.
10 Top Networking Questions Answered
1. How do I get good at networking?
Like anything else becoming good at networking takes practice. I’m not a fan of the quote, “Practice makes perfect.” If you are practicing the wrong things, you are going to get better at the wrong things. Learn what style of connecting with people works for you and learn from those who you consider good networkers. Once you learn some of the techniques, put them to practice and tweak them as needed.
2. Can you tell me about good Networking strategies?
This is a great question because most people focus on networking tactics. The “what do I need to do on the ground level,” without much thought about the bigger picture. The networking strategy that I suggest comes from Keith Ferrazzi and his mygreenlight relationship building program.
It’s the same technique he teaches in his book, Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time. You start out with your personal and business goal(s) then you build what a Relationship Action Plan (RAP). Your plan will focus on the top ten people who you believe can help you achieve your goal.
You will then ask yourself a couple of questions such as, “how can I be of service to them in order to start building a relationship with them.” Networking is a means to an end, not an end in itself.
Nothing phony here please. You have a limited bandwidth and you have to choose where you spend your time. You have to be someone who is genuine about being helpful and also purposeful. You have full permission to experiment with this.
3. What do I do with all these business cards?
I remember watching a video of Chris Brogan who had a stack of business cards from a conference he attended. In the video he was asked, “what do you do with all those business cards?” His response, “most of them will probably end up in the trash because they are not aligned to my business.”
The point; cut down on the number of business cards you receive, but for a different reason–Go Green. There are a lot of different apps that can be used to help you exchange information without increasing your carbon footprint.
You could use an app like #Hashable (I really like them because of their follow-up and notes feature; you can see a video I created on how to use it here) to exchange information.
Okay, let’s say you do have business cards, then I would suggest a couple of things. You could input them into a Customer Relationship Management tool like ACT! or Highrise.
You can also use an app like Cardmunch to take a picture of the card and watch it automatically go into your LinkedIn address book (you still have to hit the “connect” button if you are not already connected on Linkedin, but it makes the process easier).
4. How do I keep track of all the people that I’ve met?
I would suggest you create a SIT plan; that’s short for Stay In Touch plan. Use your social media networks such as LinkedIn and Facebook to create a list based on the frequency you want to connect with the people you’ve met.
I suggest creating a list for people you want to stay in touch with Monthly, Quarterly and during Holidays. The monthly list are the folks that are directly tied to a current goal you are working on. The Quarterly list are for people you already have an established relationship with and want to make sure you stay in touch. The Holiday list are for people you want to touch base on a less frequent basis.
Check the list you have created on the stated frequency and send the people a note to “check-in” and see how things are going on their end. It’s also an excellent time to follow-up on deliverables that have fallen through the cracks.
5. How do I make myself attractive to everyone I network with?
The short answer is, “you don’t.” You don’t want to be attractive to everyone you meet. You want to be attractive to the people it makes sense to be attractive to. Focus on being yourself and having a clear sense of what you are looking for and what you have to offer.
6. How do I clearly define what I do so people want to connect with me?
There is a standard way that we general introduce ourselves at events. “Hi, my name is Jen, I’m a life coach…” The problem with titles is that the people you are meeting may assume they know what you really do based on past experiences or assumptions– I speak from experience as a certified life coach.
If I tell someone I’m a life coach they really don’t know what it means, but they will associate it with whatever makes sense in their minds.
The approach you should take comes from Michael Port and his book, “Book Yourself Solid.” He teaches you to answer the question, “What do you do?” in the following way: Tell them who you serve, What you do for them, how you do it and the results you have seen.
It would sound something like this, “Hi I’m Jen, you people who are in corporate positions, but looking to start their own businesses? Well, what I do is help start to create a concrete plan so they can make their exit sooner rather than later.
[How do you do that?] I do that through one-on-one coaching, workshops and my book. People I’ve worked with have gone from working in unfulfilling jobs to doing what they love, while still making the necessary money they need to survive.
The above format allows for much more of a natural conversation. This approach takes practice, but it is well worth it.
7. How do I build my reputation and don’t feel like a suck up?
Let’s start with the last part, “feeling like a suck up.” Being a “suck up” is very subjective and what one person may consider good networking, which includes reaching out to people to check in, another may consider “sucking up.”
Check your definition and making sure it is truly yours and not simply going along with what someone else said is, “sucking up.”
Now to building your reputation. The number one way I suggest to build your reputation is by getting a clear understanding of what you have to offer and start offering it. Good work is what builds your reputation so get involved and be helpful.
In my personal case, I have a very diverse background that covers psychology, sports management and technology to say the least. I keep an eye out for ways that I can be helpful in different circles and connect people with others where it makes sense. There is no reason you can’t start doing the same.
8.How do I find people who share my interest?
You can find people who share your interest by going to places that are aligned with your interest. A good place to start is Meetup.com, your local chamber of commerce or young professionals association if you are looking to connect in person.
You can also look at Facebook and Linkedin groups as well as Google Plus hangouts and Twitter Chats as online ways to connect with people of like interest.
Can’t find what you are looking for? Create it!
9. How do I connect with “A” players?
I’ve probably already stated this, but it’s all about being helpful. Ask questions such as, “What are you most excited about at this time? and “what are your biggest challenges?” Once you know someone’s challenges you have an opportunity to help come up with a solution.
Don’t feel like you have to have an answer on the spot. I once listened to someone tell me what there biggest challenge was, I went home and thought of an answer and later sent them a hand written note with my suggested solution. They were so thankful they invited me to be a special guest on their TwitterChat.
10. How can social media sites be effectively used for networking?
Social media sites are excellent places to listen and find ways to be helpful to people. You can start to build relationships and move them forward by having Skype discussions and eventually face-to-face meetings when they are in your town or you are in theirs.
Social media sites also serve as a great way to keep relationships alive after you meet at an event. I personally leverage social media as a way to build contacts before heading to a conference and then meeting those people in person. I call that process turning #Hashtags to Handshakes.
What are some of your answers to the questions above?
We’d love to here them. Do you still have questions that need answering? Reach out and we’ll get an answer to.
Mike “Ambassador” Bruny is a networking machine and can’t wait to get to know you. He helps individuals and companies building then converting online contacts to offline relationships at conferences.
Basically, he helps people walk into conferences and get greeted like Norm from the T.V. show Cheers. His latest project is called, “#Hashtags to Handshakes.”
Get Free audio affirmations for you next conference when you sign-up for his updates at HashtagsToHandshakes.com. When he is not networking he can be found adding to his extensive bow tie collection and posting pictures on Instagram @AmbassadorBruny