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5 Steps to Seriously Improve Your Networking Skills

5 Steps to Seriously Improve Your Networking Skills

No matter what profession you’re in, networking is the fuel that accelerates success. Not only is it useful for learning directly from individuals you meet, but the benefits of association and growing your own authority are just as powerful.

For some of us, the word networking can leave a bad taste in our mouths. Many of us aren’t sure where to start, what to say when we connect with someone or how to maintain that relationship. Although I truly believe there’s an art and science to networking and building authentic relationships, I’m going to distill what I’ve learned over the past few years. So, here is my no-BS guide to networking.

Stage 1: Mindset

Before you think about networking, remove the word “working” from your system. We hear people talking about putting on their “networking game,” and I can’t help but wonder how many showers they’ll need to take afterward to rid themselves of the in authenticity. It’s likely that the people you’re trying to reach get approached by dozens, if not hundreds, of people just like you; and it’s not difficult for them to weed out the people who are “putting on a face.”

The best networking comes from genuine relationships, not a business card exchange. No matter whom you’re trying to build a relationship with, treating that person as a friend rather than a business contact will take you much further with the relationship. So, think about how you would approach a potential friend. Find something you have in common with, keep it light, make jokes, and above all, show that you care.

Stage 2: The destination

Doing something for the sake of doing it is rarely a good idea, nor is it a good use of your time. It’s the old analogy of having a fully gassed car without a final destination to head toward.

As many of you may already know, I’m a big believer in goal setting and focusing on pouring energy into accomplishing the stated goal. What is your dream job? How do you envision your future? What do you need to be doing to be the most fulfilled, happy and driven version of you? Write down what your goal is for five years from now. Then write down what goal you need to hit one year from now in order to get you closer to your five-year goal. Finally, write down what goal you need to hit 90 days from now in order to get you closer to your one-year goal.

For example: Let’s say your goal is to make $1 million in five years. You would need a vehicle, whether that is your own business, investments or something financially viable to get you to your destination. In this case, your goal one year from now might be to have your business launched and to hit $5,000 per month in sales.

So, what would you need to do in the next 90 days in order to hit $5,000 per month in your new business, one year from now? It might be finding the right partner with a complementary skill sets, or acquiring your first paying customer in the next 90 days.

5-year goal: Make $1 million
1-year goal: Hit $5,000/month ($60,000 per year) in sales with new business
90-day goal: Get your first paying customer

Now, it’s time to write down your goals. Yes, physically write them!

Stage 3: The map

Now that you have your final destination for five years from now, including focused, short-term goals to get you there, design your map. Keith Ferrazzi has a powerful strategy called the Networking Action Plan (NAP), which he explains in Never Eat Alone, to connect your networking strategy with your goals.

Step 1 is to write down your goals and final destination (which you completed in Stage 2). Step 2 is to look at the three goals you have written down. Then, next to each of your goals, write down three people who will either kickstart or accelerate your goal. These could be people you are already connected with, who are second-degree connections from you, or people you have no connections to.

Examples of who your top 3 could be include mentors or advisors, clients who will advocate for you, investors who believe in your vision, team members who may be co-founders or key hires, a boss or manager who could propel you to a raise or strategic position within your organization or superconnectors that will connect you with any of the above, to build your network.

If you’re looking to start a company, the three people could be a potential partner, an investor and a potential client. For a best-selling book, the three could be your agent, promotional partners or editor.

It’s important to invest some time doing thorough research to be confident that the three people are essential in helping you accomplish your goals faster.

Stage 4: Building a human connection

Hw do you foster a real connection when you speak with someone — whether it’s on Skype or on the phone or in-person? Personally, I think it boils down to these factors:

  • Ask insightful questions (to get the other person thinking). You can know a lot about a person by the quality of the questions he or she asks. Tony Robbins often shares that the quality of your questions correlates to the quality of your life.
  • Ask better questions, receive better answers. Peter Thiel challenges us to ask ourselves: “How do we accomplish our 10-year goals in six months?” By asking better questions when you’re speaking with someone, you not only put yourself in a category of someone that thinks differently, but you force the other person to think in a new way that helps him or her grow.
  • Pay attention (as if your life depended on it). This may come naturally for some people, or be extremely difficult for others. In our smartphone era, paying attention is a demanded “skill” many of us lack. How many times have you spoken with someone who is constantly fidgeting, looking around or interrupting your every sentence? By simplying maintaining eye contact, listening attentively and responding with relevant questions, you’re separating yourself from the rest of the pack and are well on your way to fostering a genuine relationship.

Listen. Ask good questions. Repeat.

Stage 5: Superconnecting

The fastest way to grow your own network is to introduce two people who can benefit from each another. As simple as this strategy sounds, it’s one you hardly see most people do. When’s the last time someone deliberately went out of his or her way to introduce you to someone after listening to your struggles? If you’re the rare breed that has experienced this, you’ve met a superconnector.

With over three billion people online today, it’s increasingly difficult to separate the fog from the light, and the role of superconnectors will become increasingly important to make that distinction. Here are few of the most powerful ways to become a superconnector yourself.

  • Don’t keep score. This is by far the key difference between superconnectors and everyone else. Superconnectors have an abundance mentality, and they’re always willing to give, connect and share.
  • Make friends, not “contacts.” In other words, value quality over quantity. Put away your business cards, and form genuine friendships with people you meet. I force myself to never talk about business in the first encounter with someone, unless I have to. It’s 10 times more valuable to develop connections with five quality people at an event than 50 “contacts” whose names you won’t remember.
  • Connect other superconnectors. Do you know two connectors who could benefit from meeting? Have they already met? Introducing two superconnectors will be the easiest connection you make because: They are naturally friendly and most likely will have friends in common. And you’ll not only help others further their goals, but will come to mind for them, for future potential connections that will benefit you.
  • Interview people. This may be one of the fastest ways to grow your network, if done strategically. You could do this in the context of a research paper, book or, my personal favorite, a podcast. I’ve been fortunate enough to connect with the likes of Eric Ries, Adam Braun, Jason Fried, Gary Vaynerchuk and others who would have been difficult to connect with had I not started #SKIM Live.
  • Follow-up. This is the missing step we all forget to do. But following up to see how the introduction went, or randomly following up a few months later with no agenda will not only help you maintain your connections, but foster the relationship to a different level. In a world of take take take, being able to show that you care about someone as a friend will put you in a whole different category with any of your connections.

Can you think of someone you need to follow up with right now?

 

 

Originally posted on Entrepreneur

7 Tips for Networking

Networking goes hand in hand with running a successful business.

But many of us dread walking into a room and introducing ourselves to a bunch of strangers.

I’ve been asked to share my best networking tips at a meeting today of the National Association of Women Business Owners in Philadelphia. Here are the most valuable tips I’ve come across – and put to work myself – over the years:

1. Resist the urge to arrive late. It’s almost counter-intuitive, but showing up early at a networking event is a much better strategy than getting there on the later side. As a first attendee, you’ll notice that it’s calmer and quieter – and people won’t have settled into groups yet. It’s easier to find other people who don’t have conversation partners yet.

2. Ask easy questions. Don’t wait around the edges of the room, waiting for someone to approach you. To get the conversation started, simply walk up to a person or a group, and say, “May I join you” or “What brings you to this event?” Don’t forget to listen intently to their replies. If you’re not a natural extrovert, you’re probably a very good listener – and listening can be an excellent way to get to know a person.

3. Ditch the sales pitch. Remember, networking is all about relationship building. Keep your exchange fun, light and informal – you don’t need to do the hard sell within minutes of meeting a person. The idea is to get the conversation started. People are more apt to do business with – or partner with – people whose company they enjoy.

If a potential customer does ask you about your product or service, be ready with an easy description of your company. Before the event, create a mental list of recent accomplishments, such as a new client you’ve landed or project you’ve completed. That way, you can easily pull an item off that list and into the conversation.

4. Share your passion. Win people over with your enthusiasm for your product or service. Leave a lasting impression by telling a story about why you were inspired to create your company. Talking about what you enjoy is often contagious, too. When you get other people to share their passion, it creates a memorable two-way conversation.

5. Smile. It’s a simple – but often overlooked – rule of engagement. By smiling, you’ll put your nervous self at ease, and you’ll also come across as warm and inviting to others. Remember to smile before you enter the room, or before you start your next conversation. And if you’re really dreading the event? Check the negative attitude at the door.

6. Don’t hijack the conversation. Some people who dislike networking may overcompensate by commandeering the discussion. Don’t forget: The most successful networkers (think of those you’ve met) are good at making other people feel special. Look people in the eye, repeat their name, listen to what they have to say, and suggest topics that are easy to discuss. Be a conversationalist, not a talker.

7. Remember to follow up. It’s often said that networking is where the conversation begins, not ends. If you’ve had a great exchange, ask your conversation partner the best way to stay in touch. Some people like email or phone; others prefer social networks like LinkedIn. Get in touch within 48 hours of the event to show you’re interested and available, and reference something you discussed, so your contact remembers you.

 

 

Originally posted by Colleen Debaise on Entrepreneur

9 Networking Blunders That Undermine Your Reputation

9 Networking Blunders That Undermine Your Reputation

I’ve been called the “queen of networking” for longer than I can remember. At one point, I felt like this was, perhaps, an insult, since so many people think networking is a bad word. But I later realized that’s simply because too many people do it poorly, thus giving networking a bad name.  After countless conversations, speeches, and seminars teaching people how to better network, here are the nine ways that you might be contributing to the bad wrap that networking gets.

1. You don’t get buy-in.

One of the linchpins of networking is the ability to create value-add relationships for others, which begins with an introduction. That intention is pure and necessary. Where the error begins is when you blindly send a three-way email introduction (or worse, just give someone the third party’s contact info) so that you and your original conversation partner know the introduction is coming, but the third party is in-the-dark.

I much prefer to take the extra step of calling or emailing before making an introduction to get the buy-in from the third party. This preps everyone and makes the introduction seamless and more importantly, invited by all parties.

Of course, there are circumstances where this isn’t necessary because you are certain it’s a value-add to both parties and/or you have such a trusted relationship with the third party that you know it will be a warranted introduction. When deciding how to proceed, put yourself in the shoes of the third party and ask yourself, “If I got a blind email connecting me to this person by this person, how would I feel?”

2. You don’t follow up.

Follow up is critical both to keep the momentum going once an introduction is made and to close-the-loop afterward. The biggest problem is when someone makes an introduction for you and you never let that person know what happened as a result. This is a fast way to inadvertently signal to that person that you don’t value their time or that they leveraged their reputation with the other party. Do a quick follow up and share what occurred (as well as to say thank you).

3. You keep bad company.

It’s no wonder that when we were kids, our parents were so concerned about whether or not we were hanging out with the ‘bad kids’. You are the company you keep, both by osmosis and by the perception of others. The good news is, if you keep great company, you get to ride on their reputational equity as well as glean great traits from them. But when we keep poor company, they bring us down and lessen the way others perceive us.  Consider doing some housekeeping.

4. You take too long.

I believe that 24 business hours is the maximum amount of time you have to follow up with someone before you begin to look like you don’t care or think you are too important. We are all busy and pulled in a lot of directions. But your reply can be as simple as, “I’m back-logged on email right now and wanted you to know that I saw your note. I will get back with you as soon as possible, and look forward to connecting soon!”.

5. You only look out for yourself.

One of the primary reasons networking has a sullied reputation is so many people who claim to be “networking” are simply out for their own advantage. It’s best to shift your mentality to being curious when you meet or connect with people. Ask them meaningful questions and really listen. See what you can learn and how you can find connection points. Always ask how you can help them in some way, not with an expectation of what you can get in return.

6. You only think up.

It’s not uncommon to think that the only way to advance is to buoy yourself to people with higher titles or more perceived power. While it’s fine to connect with people who are further along in their careers, don’t forget that there’s also value in meeting people in every direction of where you are in your career trajectory: down, laterally and up.

7. You underestimate the power of someone’s Rolodex.

When you meet someone, you’re not meeting just them, you’re meeting hundreds of people.  As we can see from social media, people have hundreds (if not thousands) of contacts. While some are naturally stronger than others, keep in mind that they are a gatekeeper to the people they know and to whom they could introduce you. Don’t write someone off because you don’t see immediate value.

8. You don’t do what you say you’re going to do.

This is a quick way to chip away at trust and lessen your credibility. If you say you’ll follow up with an email today, do it. If you say you’ll be at the dinner, be there and be on time.

9. You think you don’t need to network.

As someone who hosts monthly networking events in three cities for hundreds of people at each event, I often hear this when I extend invitations. When you say you “don’t need to network”you’re saying you will never be in need of the help of others nor do you want to meet anyone new to help them.

Networking is a fancy word for relationship building, so you’re basically saying that you are happy to live with the circle you’ve created and have put up a wall to anyone else. What you may mean is that you’re not currently looking for something you think you can gain from meeting new people (refer back to point 5) or that you don’t like big events, in which case, express that.

If you see yourself in any of these networking faux-pas, consider working on them in the New Year to expand your circle!

 

Originally posted by Darrah Brustein on Entrepreneur

How to Quickly Grow Your Network With No Business Experience

How to Quickly Grow Your Network With No Business Experience

Everyone knows that networking is important, but fewer people know exactly how to build a network, even though networking is perhaps the business owner’s single most important skill, no matter what the industry.

The good news is that becoming a master networker does not require an Ivy League degree, wealthy parents or a membership at the country club.

Growing your network, actually, is a fairly simple process.  Like most things in business, however, ensuring that includes powerful and influential people is not easy. Yet it’s not complicated, either. So, if you have always held onto the limiting belief that great networking requires an advanced degree and tons of cash, then read on, and let the truth set you free.

1. Attend business meetups and personal growth events.

You know the old saying, “If you want to catch fish, go where the fish are”? Well, if you want to network with high-level individuals, then go where they go.

In this context, one of the best habits you can develop for networking success is attending business meetups in your area. For specifics, go to Meetup.com and look for industry specific events close to you. You’ll be amazed at whom you can meet just by showing up and adding value to everyone around you.

Don’t try to market yourself or your company, either. Just be genuinely interested in the other people there and you will have people marketing you.

Another great place to meet high-level influencers and industry leaders is at personal growth events like Unleash the Power Within from Tony Robbins or entrepreneur conferences like World Domination Summit from Chris Guillebeau.

Hundreds of multimillionaires, top salespeople and industry disrupting entrepreneurs attend these types of events on a yearly basis. Even if you don’t manage to network as much as you’d planned, these events will still be invaluable for your personal growth and business success.

2. Produce great content.

Imagine if, instead of having to work hard at networking and hand out hundreds of business cards (doomed for the trash can) at local business dinners, you had dozens of influencers approaching you. Sounds like a dream right?

Well, this can be your reality if you are willing to put in the work to create a high-quality online platform with even higher quality content.

If you are able to write an article or record a video that rocks the internet and goes viral in a way that helps millions, industry leaders will want to talk to you and you will no longer have to work to get them on the phone for a curt 30-second introduction.

3. Introduce two new people every week.

I forget where I first learned this concept, but its power cannot be understated: If you make it your mission to connect two new people every week without any ulterior motives, you will find your network exploding in a matter of months.

People like people who are helpful. Find an excuse every week to introduce two people who may be mutually beneficial to one another. The task need not be a big ordeal, either. Simply writing an email like the following will do:

Hey Joe,

I wanted to take a second and tell you about Jane, an absolute ROCKSTAR, at a friend’s company. I thought I’d introduce you.

I know you mentioned that you are looking to improve your marketing efforts. And Jane mentioned she was looking to get involved in marketing consulting (coincidence? I think not!). Hope everything is well, and I am excited to get you two connected 🙂

Best regards,

Neil

4. Realize that ‘it is not about you.’

Let me let you in on a little secret. Most of the people you want to connect with are approached by hundreds if not thousands of people each month, all of whom bring along an attitude of WIIFM: What’s in it for me?

One of the easiest ways to set yourself apart is to completely forget your personal agenda and connect with these people in an authentic and non-needy way. So, offer value to others instead of simply grabbing stuff for yourself.

Tell them how influential they have been to you and your journey, offer to take them out for a meal and connect them with someone they might not know.

If you can master the art of authentically connecting and suspending your personal goals, you will stand out as one among many and have more success in your networking endeavors than you ever thought possible.

Conclusion

Networking is often seen as this big scary thing that only CEOs and “real business people” do. Nothing could be further from the truth.

No matter where you are in your business or career, no matter how big or small you feel, you have the ability to connect with the top players in your field, and do so much more simply and easily than you imagined.

So, take these tips and implement them in the coming weeks. See where it takes you. You may be surprised!

 

Originally posted by Neil Patel on Entrepreneur

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