A Sales Manager I worked for would often liken networking to dating. I’d like to delve a bit further into the topic. In the age of online dating, the rules have been a little skewed and the process slightly microwaved but I believe in the value of taking my time and cultivating strong relationships, before entering into any partnership. Think of any networking event you’ve gone to where you meet someone and they instantly start scrolling your social media, asking you questions about people they’ve seen you with, events you’ve been to….it’s a little creepy. When you allow the relationship to flow organically you can take your time to ensure that the person you’re connecting with is someone that you could actually see yourself working with.
1. If it isn’t a win-win partnership, we don’t have a partnership.
I don’t like being taken advantage of. I don’t think anyone does. So to ensure that any partnership I embark on makes sense for all parties involved – I go into the meeting with clear objectives. I know what I’m aiming to achieve from the interaction, I state what’s in it for them and why our brands are of any relevance to each other.
2. Don’t let your first contact be an ‘ask’.
Try a genuine compliment for the first time you interact with that Social Entrepreneur or Photographer that you’ve been dying to connect with. Yes, you may have a really bomb idea that you can’t wait to share but again networking is like dating and you wouldn’t ask your first date how they felt about marriage would you? Don’t be a networking creep. Let it flow sis, let is flow.
3. Vet, vEt VeT and when you’re done vet some more.
I’m sure we all know everyone is not who they post to be. We tend to post the highlights and never the behind the scenes, which is expected when you’re building a brand and need your audience to trust you. However, if I am hoping to work with someone I need to know how they will behave in the face of adversity. I need to know that they won’t abandon ship when things get rough. I need to know who they are when they’re in the spotlight and if they give credit where it’s due. Do your homework. Being disappointed is a part of the game, but this is business and the onus is on you to do your due diligence and know what you’re getting yourself into.
4. Just ONE.
Contrary to popular belief, you actually don’t have to work the entire room. It’s actually counter-productive. When networking you are looking to make meaningful connections that can help your business grow. When I first began attending networking events I would collect as many business cards as I possibly could. By the time I made it home from the event, I would realize that I didn’t know much about the business owners than their mission statement and what their brand offered. I wasn’t able to refer clients to them as I didn’t truly know them and what their niche market was and I couldn’t make small talk to open the door for deeper conversation because all I knew was their name. Focus on that one – make a genuine connection. Maybe you both like dogs, or have the same middle name, or are both experiencing the business blues – real, organic connections are lasting connections.
5. Relationships are the new currency.
A relationship will do more for your business than any invoice you pay, ever. Relationships with power players can get you a vending table for $10, access to networking events for free, media features and priceless encouragement when you’re in your darkest hours. Use things, not people, invest in your relationships and your network truly can transform your net worth.