In the ever-evolving landscape of business, achieving sustainable growth is the holy grail for entrepreneurs and executives alike. While there are numerous strategies and tactics that can contribute to this goal, one often overlooked yet incredibly powerful approach is strategic networking.
The Power Of Authentic Networking
Networking isn't just about collecting business cards or adding contacts on LinkedIn. It's about building meaningful relationships with individuals who can bring value to your business in various ways. The key lies in authenticity—genuine relationships founded on mutual trust and benefit.
1. Build rapport. Instead of jumping right into a sales pitch, start by getting to know the person. Ask about their interests, challenges and goals. This shows genuine interest and helps you understand how you can potentially assist someone.
2. Offer value. Networking isn't a one-way street. Share your expertise, offer assistance and provide valuable insights without expecting anything in return. By becoming a valuable resource, you establish yourself as a trusted contact.
3. Maintain a long-term focus. Sustainable growth requires long-term relationships. Don't view networking as a quick-fix solution. Cultivate relationships over time, nurturing them like you would any other business endeavor. In my experience, I've found great value in attending networking events on a regular basis. Personally, I believe that there's no substitute for face-to-face interactions.
This approach has enabled me to forge valuable partnerships and contribute to the growth of my business pipeline. While it's true that networking events can sometimes appear overwhelming, I've discovered that pinpointing a core group of potential partners within the crowd has been a highly effective strategy for navigating this challenge.
The Art Of Giving, Not Selling
One common mistake in networking is approaching it solely as a sales opportunity. While the ultimate goal of networking may be to generate business, the process itself should prioritize offering value and building rapport. When you provide solutions to problems, share knowledge and genuinely help others, you naturally position yourself as a go-to resource.
1. Share your insights. Instead of pushing your product or service, share insights related to your industry. Offer solutions to common challenges. Demonstrate your expertise in the field, and establish yourself as an authority. For example, within the realm of the painting industry, I offer clients invaluable insights into safeguarding their surfaces from corrosion or weathering. I achieve this by explaining the underlying chemical processes and their influence on surface longevity, as well as their implications for future maintenance.
2. Problem-solve. Actively listen during conversations to identify pain points or challenges that your contacts may be facing. If you have a solution, offer it. If not, connect them with someone who can help. This demonstrates your commitment to their success and brings me to the next point.
3. Build a referral network. Referrals are a powerful way to build trust and credibility. If you know someone who can benefit from your contact's services, make the introduction. This not only strengthens your relationship but also encourages reciprocity.
Building Genuine Connections
In the digital age, where communication often happens behind screens, genuine face-to-face interactions can make a world of difference. Attend industry events, conferences, trade shows and local meetups to meet people in your field.
1. Be present. When you are at networking events, be fully present. Put away your phone and engage in meaningful conversations. Make a conscious effort to connect on a personal level.
2. Follow up. After meeting someone new, follow up promptly. Send a personalized message expressing your appreciation for the conversation and your interest in staying in touch. This simple step can set the stage for a lasting relationship.
3. Nurture relationships. Building a network is an ongoing process. Regularly check in with your contacts, share updates and offer your support. Don't only reach out when you need something; maintain a consistent presence.
Networking organizations are a great way to connect locally and meet other industry professionals. For example, organizations like Business Network International (BNI) and your local chamber of commerce often facilitate professional networking and referrals among members. (Disclosure: I am a member of BNI.) These groups typically meet regularly, allowing business professionals from various industries to build relationships, exchange referrals and support each other's business growth through structured networking events.
Leveraging Technology For Networking
While face-to-face interactions are invaluable, technology can enhance your networking efforts.
1. Use LinkedIn. Maintain an active and professional LinkedIn profile. Connect with relevant contacts, share insightful content and engage in meaningful conversations within your industry.
2. Try email marketing. Use email marketing to share valuable content with your network. This could include industry news, informative articles or helpful resources.
3. Get involved with webinars and podcasts. Host webinars or participate in podcasts to showcase your expertise and connect with a wider audience.
At my company, we utilize monthly email newsletters to maintain a presence in the minds of our current and potential customers, offering them valuable tips and useful resources. Our approach is designed not to annoy our contacts with an abundance of calls to action, but to serve as a gentle reminder that our assistance is readily available. I've observed that past customers often reengage with us, particularly on projects they had postponed, finding inspiration to move forward after reading our newsletters.
In the quest for sustainable business growth, strategic networking is a potent tool that can't be underestimated. Prioritizing authenticity, offering value and building genuine relationships are the pillars of effective networking. Remember that networking isn't just about expanding your reach; it's about building a community of trusted contacts who can support each other in achieving their goals.
By shifting your focus from selling to giving, you can foster connections that lead to mutually beneficial opportunities, all while contributing to your long-term business growth. So start networking with authenticity, and watch your business flourish.
Image Credit: GETTY
Building strong business connections has always been a cornerstone of success. Creating meaningful relationships and nurturing professional bonds with a wide variety of people can unlock exciting opportunities and collaborations, driving growth, influence and impact. But as I keep telling my students, while human communication hasn't changed much in thousands of years, artificial intelligence (AI) opens up new means to do so, claiming to overtake many aspects of communication and make it more efficient.
As I've been researching the practices and evolution of business relationships for over a decade, there are several core issues people face around business networking:
So, can AI replace the human touch in connecting with others?
This is a common question I pose during my worldwide lectures. My answer is: I don't believe so for the current version of AI, but it can be used to support the "groundwork" aspects of networking.
Networking work consists of many small, repetitive actions such as: researching others, identifying common ground, effective communication, composing emails, creating social media posts and skillful follow-ups (where many of us tend to fail). With that in mind, the integration of artificial intelligence and networking has the potential to create a new era of efficiency, personalization and unparalleled insights than ever before.
This is why I would like to share common networking use cases and highlight some transformative AI tools that, if harnessed effectively, can literally reshape and support how we connect with others, cultivate our personal brand, expand our networks, establish meaningful connections and navigate the realm of business relationships towards business results.
1. Enhanced communication with Crystal Knows
Want to know how to communicate in a way that will enhance bonding and resonate with other people? These goals can become even harder to achieve when communicating through email. Crystal Knows integrates with email platforms to offer AI-driven insights on effective communication. This tool analyzes data to guide professionals in tailoring their messages and approaches to different personalities, leading to more impactful interactions and stronger connections.
2. Get data-driven insights about others with LinkedIn Sales Navigator
It harnesses the power of data analysis to suggest relevant connections and identify trends, conversation topics and hidden connections. These insights empower professionals to make informed networking decisions and uncover promising opportunities within their network.
3. Automate relationship building with Connection Fox
Maintaining our network is the "working" in the word "networking" — many people don't like it. Connection Fox helps keep your network engaged without fake-looking automation, as it keeps track of one's important contacts, gets reminders to keep the relationship alive and schedules messages for future delivery so you can look like a superhero. Additionally, there is FullContact, which consolidates and enriches contact details, including social media profiles. This comprehensive database enables professionals to effectively manage their network and ensure they have up-to-date information on their connections and by that, support communication and decision making.
4. Efficient meeting summaries can be done with Fireflies
This AI meeting assistant employs natural language processing (NLP) to eliminate the need for note-taking during meetings. This tool records, transcribes and searches voice conversations, streamlining meeting preparation and enhancing engagement and helps build relationships right where you left the last conversation.
5. LinkedIn engagement can be taken care of with Ideta
This AI assistant manages your LinkedIn engagement by responding to messages and generating AI-crafted comments on posts. This tool offers consistent engagement while allowing users to maintain control over their interactions.
6. Build your brand on LinkedIn with Taplio
As a professional, you don't have the privilege of not building a brand these days — and you must do so online by posting professional information in a timely and consistent manner. Taplio will enable one to create great content, schedule posts at optimal times and monitor your results.
Ready for an AI-powered networking future?
As AI becomes more and more integrated into our lives, the evolution of AI tools for business networking holds promise. We can anticipate the development of even more sophisticated AI tools designed to assist professionals in maximizing their networking communication and preparation, enhancing their LinkedIn experience and streamlining the networking process to unprecedented levels and beyond.
The ultimate objective is clear: to make networking not only efficient but also highly effective and deeply personalized. With AI as the driving force, we're approaching a future where networking becomes a seamless and enjoyable endeavor.
And just a friendly reminder, no matter how you choose to utilize it, please don't lose your human touch. Deal?
Source : https://www.entrepreneur.com
Networking is an essential skill for entrepreneurs to learn because it generates business.
The term networking can become over complicated. It is simply starting and nurturing relationships which is something that humans do throughout life.
It doesn’t have to be difficult. Practice, repetition and following the tips below will help you build rewarding professional relationships wherever you are, whether that’s at work, a seminar, a party or on a flight.
Define Your Objectives.
Who do you want to meet and why? How many networking events will you commit to attending? Where will you go to network? How will you measure your progress? What do I want to get help with?
Asking yourself these powerful questions is a great place to start. You can’t hit a goal without a target, so be strategic about your time and your intentions.
Be Mindful Of Your Personal Brand
First impressions really do count. Before attending a networking event, think about how you will introduce yourself. Do you have an elevator pitch of around 30 seconds? If not, write and practice one. Make sure you are dressed well and feel confident in your appearance (whatever that means to you). Your personal brand also follows you online, so be mindful of how you want to show up.
Find A Networking Partner
Networking can feel scary. Introverts should find someone to attend events with to take the edge off. This tip is also very good if you know that you need help staying accountable. Having a networking partner will mean you’re both more likely to show up.
Is anybody surprised that 75% of entrepreneurs have reported concerns for their mental health? Running a business is hard and can be a lonely road. This is not to say that you should treat networking as a free talking therapy, but be vulnerable about the problems in your industry or that you’re facing in business. Vulnerability builds deeper connections more quickly, and you never know if the person you’re talking to has the perfect solution to the issue that’s holding you back.
Take Advantage Of The Internet
LinkedIn is not just an online resume. It’s the most suited platform for building professional relationships, so make sure to interact with content, post your own content and send direct messages. Aside from LinkedIn, you can network on every other social media platform. Attending online workshops and being active in forums are other ways to meet people who share your interests.
Always Add Value
When you make a connection ask yourself two questions.
Openly sharing knowledge, contacts and opportunities to help others win will create a culture of generosity within the relationship. The other person will be more likely to help and introduce you to others when the time comes.
People tend to talk more than they listen. If you can learn to truly listen, you will gather so much information about people, the industries they are in and the professional problems they face. It is said that knowledge is power.
Networking doesn’t start until you follow up. Aim to send a text, email or direct message within 24 hours of meeting someone. Check in with them every 3 to 6 months to further nurture the relationship.
Review Your Progress
Six months after attending a networking event, review the relationships that were built. You might start to notice trends such as which types of events are the most beneficial to your networking goals. From this exercise, you can tailor your networking strategy if needed.
Take The Pressure Off
Building relationships is a skill that you have already been practicing for years, so try not to feel intimidated by the word networking or by trying to ‘do it right’. The more you network, the more confident you will get.
Networking is about establishing connections and creating a supportive community. Even if you don’t have a specific product or service to promote, your presence can still contribute to engaging conversations, the exchange of ideas, and potential collaborations.
Source : https://www.forbes.com/
Image Credit : Getty Images
There's no shortage of business masterminds offering their expertise, and there are plenty of business-focused events billed as "must-attend" functions. However, no leader has time to access them all and, depending on your goals, many aren't even worth your time. But if you’re a high-achieving professional who is eager to learn and grow in your role or advance your business, how do you determine which events are right for you?
The members of Young Entrepreneur Council have a few suggestions. Below, they each share one factor they look at to determine whether or not a business mastermind or certain networking event is worth their time—and how you can do the same.
1. Whether You Can Define A Clear Objective For Attending
I once went to an industry event, and a fellow CEO asked me very directly, "Why are you here?" I think I gave him a long-winded answer about understanding the industry and staying up on the latest trends. I asked him the same question, and he answered me very directly in probably 10 words. Ever since, I remember that exchange, and I only attend industry events where I can define a clear primary objective—and maybe a secondary one that's "nice to have." If I can't do that, I usually skip the event as it's just not worth the time. - JT Allen, myFootpath LLC
2. Whether It's Going To Challenge You
Is it going to make you uncomfortable? Embrace the unknown. It is easy to attend events with people you know and topics you've heard a million times before. Real change and learning comes when you challenge yourself to participate in something that's unknown. If it's going to challenge you, it will be worth it. - Chase Williams, Market My Market
3. Whether There Will Be People In Attendance You Can Connect With
I look at the connections—or super-connections—and what common ground they share with me. The best and most meaningful events are those where attendees connect at some level through unique shared experiences. To find this common ground for an event I am invited to, I always look at the host or person doing the inviting. Even if I don't know them personally, I can still find who connected us (a super-connector). In addition to examining commonalities between myself and the host of an event, it also helps to research potential speakers, panelists or mentors so that I can better understand what kind of knowledge and experience everyone brings to the table to decide whether their expertise aligns with my goals and would result in a more productive use of time. - Tonika Bruce, Lead Nicely, Inc.
4. Whether The Event Can Help You Improve Your Weaknesses
We are in constant pursuit of improving our business, and some of these events can help tremendously if the right people are in attendance and the right subject matter is on the agenda. Many of the events that I have attended in the past have had a direct impact on the growth of our business. This is due to the individuals whom I learned from at these events. But, I was cognizant to only attend if I knew people were in attendance who could help me in an area of weakness. - Jeff Cayley, Worldwide Cyclery
5. Whether Your Peers Found Value In The Event
We always ask ourselves, "What are our peers saying about this event or opportunity?" We want to see that entrepreneurs like us get real value out of it, beyond mere networking (though that's important too). In fact, we'd recommend skipping the first version of any event unless it's a direct outgrowth of a similar event with a proven track record. Afterward, if anyone you know and trust attends, ask them for their honest take on whether it was worth it and for tips to get the most out of it if and when you attend the next time around. - Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance
6. Whether The Host Or Organizer Has A Credible Reputation
When evaluating whether a business mastermind or networking event is worth my time, I look at the reputation of the host or organizer. I look into their background, credentials and experience in hosting events that are relevant to my interests and browse through previous event records. A reputable host or organizer with a history of successful events and satisfied attendees is a good sign that the event will be well-organized, high quality and provide value to me and my business. Additionally, I consider the format, content and goals of the event to see if they align with my own goals and expectations, as well as the cost and any other resources required for attendance. - Kazi Mamun, CANSOFT
7. Whether The Content Is Relevant To Your Goals
The most important factor to look at when deciding whether or not you should attend a networking event is its relevance to your respective goals. See if the event presents you with an opportunity to learn from the expertise and experience of the speakers or other like-minded professionals that help maximize your efficiency and bring you a step closer to achieving your goals. Attending such events is definitely worth your time. - Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms
8. Whether The Speaker Has Something New To Offer
I look up some of what the speaker may have done previously, like any books they've authored or studies they've published. I may look up other speeches to get the gist of what they will talk about. I can do all of that in about 15 minutes to figure out whether the event is worth my time. What I look for to make that decision is whether this speaker has something new to offer. It is particularly important to me that they have practical solutions to offer that would benefit me, my workers or my company. I want to walk out of such meetings with an idea of how to implement ideas that will make improvements. A speaker who can't give me that isn't worth my time. - Baruch Labunski, Rank Secure
Image Credit: Getty Images
Membership is open to businesses and organizations interested in increasing visibility and brand awareness in Westchester County and surrounding areas.