This topic has been top of mind for me this week. I saw a sponsored Facebook post pop up in my feed saying, “Grow your business without having to network”. The ad was selling an online sales strategy – a model that often saturates our social media feeds and inboxes (if lured to their freebies in exchange for our email address). Whilst I have been looking at boosting my coaching business’s online strategy, and can see this model’s potential for success, I am mindful of getting the right level of authenticity when promoting my services, especially in the online world.
So, what does this have to do with networking?
I have always actively put myself ‘out there’ to meet others. In person. This has been a successful marketing tool for my business. I enjoy the organic nature of this approach and feel there is strength in building meaningful professional relationships. My business offers coaching to people to help manage their career and job search with proactive networking techniques and I find that most people are initially resistant to networking because it seems ‘salesy’. It doesn’t have to be and here’s why:
- Start with coffee conversations. Who can you catch up with that you haven’t seen for a while?
- Know your story. What’s going on for you in business, work or life? Share what’s working well and don’t be afraid to talk briefly about a specific challenge if you think it’s appropriate. They might have the answer you need.
- Understand you values and motivators. This is pretty important as these are the things that drive you. Is there a particular cause or project you truly care about or hold close to your heart? This answer’s the question about WHY we do things.
- Know your offering. How do you make a difference in business, work or life? What is your particular area of expertise and how does it transform or help others?
Knowing yourself well leads to understanding and promoting your personal and professional brand. When this is clear you can give an essence of ‘you’ both in person and across social media platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram (these are my top three). These online tools encourage and help people to engage which can lead to connecting directly via messaging and/or being directed to your website to find out more.
Now, back to the coffee conversations…
- Be curious about the person you’re meeting with. Whether it’s a colleague, friend, school parent, potential client treat the conversation with friendly professionalism and ask – what’s news with you? Actively listen to their story and if you have a tip, advice, can refer them or simply a sounding board, then you are being generous with your time and energy.
- Follow up with a short appreciative email or text if you think it’s appropriate and share any info you said you’d follow up on.
- Connect on social media if you haven’t already (using the right tool for the audience – I often suggest LinkedIn as it’s the most professional).
Networking doesn’t just happen over coffee or social media though. It happens all the time. Here’s some ways that I connect (that have led to successful business referrals):
- Coworking space
- Train / commute
- Short course / conference
- Business association
- Volunteering / community involvement
- Friends and family
- Hairdresser (think about it – they chat with lots of people every day!)
To summarise, know your value, your offering, your area of expertise and tell your story far and wide. And be yourself. No one needs the pressure of someone directly selling something. It’s much easier to be genuine in your conversations and people will be interested to find out more. By following up with an email or social media connection keeps the conversation going and if they want to engage further they know where to find you. You never know when the people you meet and the discussions you have will lead to a job opportunity or a business referral so think about the message you give.
I’ve written step by step tips to strengthen your networking skills HERE.
I’ve also included information to Simon’s Sinek’s ‘Start with Why‘ as I think it’s a good way to remind us of our purpose.
Top image by photographer Lucy Foster of LuLu Snap
Smaller image taken by Gen