The people you know and surround yourself with will make all the difference in business and life. There’s no coincidence that some of the most successful entrepreneurs are also some of the most well-connected. When it comes to networking though, you need to focus on quality over quantity. Just because you have a bunch of friends on Facebook doesn’t mean your popular right? Same goes for your professional network. If you want to gain value from your network you need to build authentic relationships.
That said, here are five networking tips that will help you build authentic relationships:
Build an honest reputation
Your reputation is one of the most important pieces of building authentic relationships. At the end of the day, you want to surround yourself with people you trust and that trust you. Without that trust there is nothing.
While it’s important to stand out and present yourself in a positive light, it’s not okay to do so by lying. Everyone get’s excited and can fluff their personal story a bit. And that’s generally okay. The problems arise when you get to used to this strategy. Eventually someone will decide to do their due diligence and call you out. In fact, spotting a liar is pretty easy these days. When that happens, it can have a detrimental affect on your personal brand and reputation. You want to avoid this at all costs.
Play to your strengths when promoting your brand and don’t be afraid to wear faults proudly. If your first business was a failure, talk about how much you learned from it. You can spin just about anything into something positive if you need to.
Take meetings in person whenever possible
In the digital age we tend to default to using our phones or computers to take meetings. While connecting over email is great, taking the time to meet in person will take the relationship to a different level. Especially if this is the first time you’re meeting.
Let’s say you have a client reaching out who is interested in doing business. They send a request for proposal (RFP) and let you know they’ll be speaking with competitors for similar offers. You want to win their business so what’s the first step? First off you need to gauge if you can meet their basic requirements. If that’s a go, it’s time to hop on a plane (or car) and meet them face to face.
What truly separates businesses is the people that run them. Often times, all it takes is a face to face meeting to differentiate yourself from competition. This is because you’ve started to build a relationship with the client before they’ve even agreed to work with you.
Don’t forget your notebook
After you take a meeting you’re going to forget 90% of what was said within an hour. This is why it’s so important to make sure you write things down. Of course you should take notes on business related topics and or the purpose for the meeting. That said, you should also jot down a few notes on whomever you were meeting. Where they like to eat, favorite travel destinations, hobbies, and other interests are great things to note down when networking with others. This way, you can make an effort to build the relationship outside of work.
Bringing a notebook to your face to face meetings is also a sign of respect. By writing things down as the other person speaks, it shows you value what they have to say. It will also encourage you to listen more than you speak. This is always a great tactic to use when trying to learn more about someone else. Ask questions and take notes as you drive the conversation.
Give away a free favor (or two)
The next time you’re attending an industry conference or event take the time to discern who’s giving a sales pitch and who’s looking to build relationships. The problem is it’s rarely the latter. Most often people are looking to further their own personal career by asking something of you. This is a perfect time to differentiate yourself from those kinds of people.
Instead of following the pack like the rest you should try offering a favor away for free. The favor doesn’t have to be much either. It can simply be an introduction or even some advice. If they gained value from you from that favor, you can expect they will happy to return it. If you focus on doing this at your next conference, you’ll come away with a lot more value in the long run than trying to sell everyone on the conference floor.
Check in every once in a while
We all live very busy lives. That said, it’s common for us to lose contact with one another. With close friends and family the distance doesn’t cause the relationship to fade. In business however, it most certainly can. This is why it’s always important to follow up with people you’ve met over the years in your business dealings.
When reaching out you don’t even need to ask for anything in specific. You could simply ask them how they’re doing or about some trip you know they recently came back from. It’s the little things that often times mean the most in these relationships. The more you keep in touch with them the stronger the relationship will be.
At the end of the day networking really comes down to practice. Overtime you’ll figure out what it takes to put your best foot forward and build lasting relationships with people. The five networking tips mentioned above will help you accomplish just that!