by Guest Author on October 26, 2012
It’s the activity that every entrepreneur must practice daily — Networking — to build their sphere of influence and generate leads for their business.
If you Google for networking tips you’ll get a lot of advice on updating your online profiles, having killer business cards, attending the right events, and mastering the art and science of social dynamics.
Some of the best advice is simply to think about how you can help others before helping yourself. This will go along way. Be careful though. I’ve seen people take this too far and create a sense of entitlement for reciprocity from their networking. People’s radars are on high alert these days. I’ve seen body language change at the drop of hat when there’s even a hint of getting something unsolicited from somebody they’ve just met. Huh, “but I’m giving them good stuff!” you say? With so many networking opportunities and touch points today it’s no surprise people can be so guarded.
Be yourself. Be gracious and abundant. But do it because it’s a great attitude and mindset to be in, not because you’re going to pile up a bunch of credits that your contact will feel obliged to pay-it-backward to you some day. More importantly, it doesn’t cost you anything extra to become a strategic thinker and try to actually solve problems for the connections you seek.
All of this advice points to one big, insanely smart idea. Always be adding HIGH value in your networking.
Get to work for your connections
Do you prepare for a meeting by trying to identify a tangible need or problem your networking contact might have? Or, do you typically stick to researching their Klout score, Likes and mutual connections to build instant rapport with them? Of course, have some context before you meet. Especially if you haven’t met the person directly yet. If you ask someone for a meeting and you’ve never met them before it’s your job to figure it out. Time is precious.
Once you’ve done a little homework on behalf of your new contact, you are ready to bring the high value. Here are a few must-have habits you can start practicing today as an entrepreneur looking for your next contract or business partnership:
- Job Interview — Bring a prospective customer or talent to the meeting. Now, I don’t mean necessarily BRINGING them to the meeting. If you do think there’s a way to provide an introduction in-person then do try to make it happen. You don’t want to distract from your goal of pursuing the job; and, of course, don’t bring a competing candidate to the meeting. If there’s another job your contact is also looking to hire then it can be very helpful and a big time-saver. So you’re pursuing some consulting work as a designer for your new connection? Why not introduce them to a new client from your network? Awesome.
- Business Partnership — Bring a valuable connection to the meeting and/or relationship. Same rules apply as above. Don’t make it a distraction but do consider providing in-person or through other means. For business development opportunities, I always try to deliver something like this on the very first meeting. Ultimately, the other party is going to have to sell themselves to your primary connection but why not grease the wheels a little and build high value in the process? Powerful.
Connect the dots
All this talk of high value networking should hit you right between the eyes. Why? Because at some point in your daily hustle you wanted to get creative but didn’t want it to disrupt your flow. That’s BS. You’re an entreprenuer! Creativity is the spark plug to your engine. Give yourself permission to connect the dots and unleash the creativity from within. What is creativity? Steve Jobs said it best:
Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. [via BrainyQuote]
You already have what it takes to get those first meetings. Now, get to work for your connections and begin to connect the dots creatively. You’ll demonstrate high value and instant credibility. And your network will thank you.