5 Networking Tips for the Experienced or Reluctant!
Let’s face it: networking is not everyone’s cup of tea. If you’re introverted, socially awkward, or think you’re “not a people person,” it’s sometimes hard to get pumped up to put yourself out there. However, networking is necessary part of business growth; in this day and age—more than ever—it’s less about what you know and more about who you know. So whether you’re a natural extravert and actually love networking or you (like many) struggle to force yourself to meet new people, we’ve gathered together some of our great friends around the city to inspire us how to network—and remind us of the great things that can come out of it.
- REMOVE STEREOTYPES
Sometimes, your perceptions of networking don’t stop at what you think you’re capable of. Many put the idea networking in a box and limit themselves to what actions they put “networking effort” into. A small get together of alumni from your university might be just as important for your business as large networking event with professionals from your discipline. Keep your mind open to whatever connections that come across your path!
“Free yourself from perception. Networking, in my mind, can be anything that allows you to establish or deepen relationships with people in your professional circle. It can be lunch with a former colleague or coffee with a vendor. It might be a follow-up conversation with someone you met in a volunteer context. Anything that allows you to expand the web of people who are familiar with who you are and what you do and allows you to begin developing a personal rapport is networking.”
Business Development Manager, Barnes and Thornburg
Vice Chair, Legal Marketing Association Indianapolis
Making relationships is key to growing both personally and professionally. Many networking groups speak to helping you find new opportunities for employment or supporting you as you become better at your chosen career. Simply showing up to an event, however, doesn’t help you grow your connections or your circle. Truly engaging in a group and digging in takes persistence in attendance.
“While it takes time and commitment, you will have the chance to positively influence others while also developing a valuable resource for your career and personal life. One of the most gratifying parts of networking is developing life-long friendships. Some of my best friends are those that I met through networking. You must maintain these relationships to receive the benefits.”
Director of Marketing, CE Solutions
President, SMPS Indiana Chapter
- NATURAL CONNECTIONS
Finding conversation points is also the key to building rapport with a prospective client or vendor and making a networking event more enjoyable. It’s important to find groups of people who are either working a similar field as you or talking about a topic you have interest in. This commonality sparks conversations and naturally leads to other discussions once the ice is broken. Ultimately, these conversations might seem surface level to you, but will ultimately lead to a level of trust between you and them.
“From discussions we have had with our clients, one of the key factors that a vast majority of their top reps possess is having a large and dependable network. [Pacers Business Alliance] essentially brings together our season ticket holders, suite holders, corporate partners, and networking contacts together to help grow each others business, all of whom have a natural connection of being Pacers fans. Personally, I have found that developing a “givers” mindset and trust with your networking partners is crucial. If they are going to introduce you to their clients, that takes a high level of trust”
Corporate Ticket Sales Manager
Indiana Pacers Business Alliance
- ASK FOR INTRODUCTIONS
As you start to get involved with networking groups you may immediately find people that you would like to know but don’t know. Chances are, somebody at the event knows the person so don’t be afraid to ask for that introduction. The more people you know, the more you can go with confidence to events and give an introduction to someone else!
“Ask to be introduced! Most event hosts are good at networking and will go out of their way to help you network.”
- SOCIAL SELLING
All the introverts in the world sigh with relief when they learn part of networking is through social media! LinkedIn, Facebook, and other social platforms have become integral to how professionals do business in the past few years. Chances are that as soon as a potential client meets you at an event, they will stay interested in you as you show interest in them and post so that they see what your business is doing.
“Although many parts of networking have been the same for hundreds of years, a new part of the networking process is what I call “Social Selling”. I have had a good amount of success using LinkedIn and other social media platforms to expand my sphere of influence with my clients. Not only can I gather intelligence about someone prior to meeting them, but I can post and share information about my brand and my company. When I am out at the various industry organizations I belong to, people often will say that they feel like they know what my company and I have been up to, by following my posts on LinkedIn.”
Director of Business Development, BSA Lifestructures
Treasurer, National Association of Women in Construction Indy