A lot of people don’t understand the true power of networking and how far in life you can go with knowing the right people. I’m sure you have all heard of the phrase, “It’s not what you know, but who you know”. Believe me, this is true and I speak from experience of getting to know the right people to open some doors for myself. In this article, I will explore a basic but personally tested networking tutorial.
Every day and every moment in life is an opportunity to network. You never know what the unsuspecting gentlemen in jeans sitting across from you on the train does for a living until you get to know them; I can guarantee 9 out of 10 times you would be amazed.
Recently, on a Sunday afternoon, I spoke to a scruffy looking guy at a retail store; he looked very normal wearing his DIY Sunday clothes. It turned out he owned his own record label, would have never of guessed. . . if I was musically talented or was looking to get into the industry. . . brilliant, just found a way in, charm him and ask for a business card.
Quick Networking Tutorial: 5 Solid Tips
So how do you strike up a conversation with a stranger and find out what they can do for you or even what you can do for them? I’m going to give you 5 tips on how to improve your skills and make sure you get to know the right people, at the end of the day it really is who you know in life which is going to open the right doors for you.
1. Start a conversation
Conversations are easy to start, you just need to take the right approach and be in the right environment. Stopping someone whilst their running for their train is not the right time to try and network, but sitting opposite someone on the train is.
Look for something that’s going to give the lead into striking up the conversation, are they wearing a badge that looks interesting or are they reading your favourite book? That’s your lead in, ask them what they think of it. . . instantly you’re in because you’re talking about something you have in common, this then leads you to ask more, like “what stop do you get off at?”
2. Limit personal questions
Here is a tricky one: Make sure that you’re not trying to find out how many kids they have and how old they are. That is none of your business. However using your lead into the conversation move onto what they do for a living, asking where they are heading can then move onto, “Is that where you work?”
These are simple, un-intrusive questions that are very general to commuters and they won’t mind sharing too much. Once you know what they do, think if that is going to be of benefit to you, or can you offer your service to them.
3. Sell yourself
Can they help you in some way or can you help them? This is your opportunity just to give them a little outline of what you do. “Oh. . . so your in the music business. . . I’m actually a producer.” Generally if you’ve got this far in a conversation they would have already asked what you do for a living. Now don’t try to push yourself or seal some sort of deal whilst still on the train; use this as your leverage to getting to know someone in the industry that you want to be involved with. You’ll see the benefits later.
4. Leave a lasting impression
Remember, in any conversation you have, whether you’re on the train or a networking event, leave a positive impression for them to remember you. Making a sales pitch is not going to impress them, but taking a genuine interest in who they are and what they do will.
Also, don’t forget their name! People like the sound of their own name, so by acknowledging that you know their name is often a very good way to end a conversation, “Very nice to meet you James”. This instantly makes you a better people person as you’ve taken the time to learn their name. The number of times I have met someone and 2 minutes later they have forgotten my name is unreal, I’ve thought to myself that they didn’t really care about me as a person. Remember people buy you first before your service or product.
5. Follow up
So did you exchange business cards or email addresses? Great, you’re in then. Generally this is a sign that they are impressed with you, like you and defiantly want to hear from you. So DO follow up on this and keep the relationship going.
If you want something from them you will have to be prepared to give something first. So think about how that conversation is going to go. Generally following up with a simple “nice to meet you” email is a good start and will allow you to build a platform for taking this relationship further.
You’ve got the very basics now, so get your self out there and start creating better prospects for yourself. Just remember that not everyone wants to have a chat with you and not everyone wants to network. So if you do come across that person don’t be pushy — they are not interested.
Now again this isn’t the final edition of networking tutorial; it’s a few simple tips to get you started, put your own twist on it and create your own style of striking up a conversation. In any situation being ‘you’ is the best person you can be.
Did you find this networking tutorial useful? Let us know below.
Photo by jenny downing.
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Great post. I will definitely try this next time.
Last day, I was thinking of a similar connection ‘steps’, heck couldn’t come up with the necessary details and the right order. You have made a great list, which showed me the whole portrait, and making it wihout neglecting the important details.
I really liked the post – very practical!
Was wondering if you can recommend software or systems to use to manage these connections (network) effectively?
You are asking about software or systems to manage the confusing data from networking and track actual results?
Check out this post from one of the Master Kings of Networking, Dr. Ivan Misner – http://businessnetworking.com/where-there-are-systems-theres-success/
Check out the comment below, mentioning Relate2Profit.com
And I trust this is useful for you Iaan.
Jelani Asar, Internet Marketing Manager, Income Protection Atlanta
Thank you Alex for the article,
it reminded me how important is to try to communicate with new people and how to use those aquired connections. Great list of important points.
+1 for iaan’s question above.
Thanks for the comments guys, it’s nice to get some feedback! Networking has defiantly helped me get to some tricky places that otherwise proved impossible! In terms of managing your connections…I usually try and find them on LinkedIn and add them to my network, that way I can research them to find out a little more and I’ve also made the first point of contact with them. Otherwise use some kind of address book that allows you to add descrtptions and notes on who they are so you remeber why you have them as a contact. Hope that helps!!
This is such a great post! #4 is particularly strong….remember their name, and use it right away! As a photographer shooting weddings, I try so hard to do this with all the bridesmaids and ushers….it helps when I get it right. It is embarrassing (though sometimes funny) when I don’t!
You know why I don’t do this? Because it’s ALWAYS *ME* who could do something for them (yeah, I’m computer scientist….) and nearly never the other way round…