3 Steps to Improve Your Networking Game

When opportunity knocks, be prepared to promote your company to new customers with clarity and purpose

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Networking is kind of like going to the dentist. You know you have to do it and everyone tells you that you have to do it. But you don’t want to. You know you’re going to be white-knuckling it every step of the way as you imagine everything that could possibly go wrong. Why does this happen?

Some of us have a hard time approaching and talking to people we don’t know. Our confidence is put to the test, and we wonder whether we’re good enough, smart enough, talented enough, or whatever enough. But if your goal is to be successful in a service business, networking has to be part of the equation. You’ll have to reach out to potential customers, give presentations and hand out business cards. The whole kit and caboodle.

It’s not enough that you’re a qualified professional with the right skills and equipment to do the job. Your business relies on your ability to establish strong, meaningful relationships with the people who would hire you. And the best possible way to get out and begin building strong relationships? Not cold calling, not shooting emails or LinkedIn messages off to total strangers — the answer is networking.  

If you hate networking, what can you do to make it easier? Wouldn’t it be great if there was a simple formula you could mentally pull up the next time someone asks: “So, what do you do?”

Well, I’ve got a formula for you. It’s only three steps long, and it’s effective at 1.) telling people what you do, 2.) telling people why you do it, and 3.) prompting them to give you an introduction to anyone they know who might need your services.

Step 1: Be Clear About What You Do

If we are unclear in explaining what we do, we make it really hard for people to give referrals. We may feel an unnecessary lack of confidence. This can happen whether you’re meeting someone while waiting in line for a cup of coffee or in a traditional business networking setting.

Let’s say you have an exhibit at a home show promoting your services. You know what you do and how it will help people, but you simply don’t know how to explain what you do in a detailed way. Let’s solve this challenge. 

Do you help homeowners get peace of mind when it comes to their wastewater systems? Share a success story involving one of your customers. Instead of a conversation-stopper, you have a conversation-starter. Instead of building superficial relationships based on small talk, you open up meaningful conversations that will interest the people you meet. Most importantly, you’ll make it extremely easy for people to identify others who could use your services.   

Step 2: Be Clear About Why You Do It

Share the positive impact you have on the world, and then people will be more likely to help you out with leads and referrals. This is because your motives are made clear — they know you’re not just trying to make a buck.

Cleaning and repairing sewer systems can be a dirty job, but it’s a necessary one. It’s rewarding to help homeowners and commercial customers maintain their  wastewater systems and solve their problems.

Step 3: Provide Value

Networking is about making meaningful relationships, not surface-level connections. It’s not about getting into endless conversations with small talk and fluff or trying to close deals. So how do you build a connection with someone that is give-and-take and that considers what they want and need in addition to what you want and need?

You can do it by giving away value. Maybe you’re talking to a group at your local chamber of commerce and you can share simple advice about how restaurant owners can take care of their wastewater issues or homeowners can more effectively take care of their plumbing systems. 

If you aren’t able to think of a way to help someone out, ask them. Let them know that they are meaningful to you. As Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

So make them feel good. And as long as you come from a place of providing value, you won’t sound contrived or fake. You will come across as genuine, sincere and real because that is what you are.

And as an added bonus, anyone you’ve gone out of your way to help is far more likely to go out of their way to help you. So ask for referrals. They will know you’re a person worth introducing around.

About the Author

Joyce Akiko is a consultant specializing in streamlining, automating and creating passive revenue for businesses. Reach her at www.joyceakiko.com.



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