What they say is often true, success is largely hinged on who you know. So, what are the best ways to establish those new connections, and once you’ve made them, where do you go from there? Is it a numbers game? Or are there specific techniques that will help you to utilise a network of contacts?
There are 1001 ways to skin a cat when it comes to networking, but here are some common mistakes to steer clear of when it comes to doing it well:
Going to networking events.
Unless used properly, they are a total waste of time. Without a strategic approach and game plan, it’s difficult to achieve any kind of return on investment when it comes to networking events. You might have a fabulous time mingling and enjoying the drinks and nibbles, but leaving an impression is tricky in this kind of environment.
Think about what you’ve taken away with you after your last networking event – a pile of business cards stamped with names you can’t quite put faces to, perhaps? So, how can you expect anything more when it comes to you and your business?
There are plenty of other approaches when it comes to making meaningful new connections in ways that will leave lasting impressions. It may even be an idea to host your own networking event, where you are the one in control (who, what, where, when, etc.). The outcome will generally be much more predictable, if not more successful, than attending those hosted by third parties.
Going to networking events without a mission.
If you are going to events, then it’s good to have a plan. Ask the organiser for a list of attendees so you can do your homework, determine the top three to five contacts you need to meet, and what you want to get out of the encounter e.g. schedule a meet and greet, introduce them to your sales manager, tell them about a great marketing idea you have for their business, etc.
If you’re not ready to give up on networking events just yet, this is the kind of tactical approach it would be best to take. If you give yourself a top five, not only do you have a clear direction, but it’s an achievable goal to work towards.
Make sure you do your research on their company and have some examples of what you could offer to solve a business problem of theirs, or suggestions around how a campaign they have completed recently could be amplified further (in the case of PR, digital and social, which is what Agent99 PR does). They will be so pleasantly surprised by your dedication and knowledge, you’re sure to stand out from the crowd.
Leaving it too long ‘between drinks’ with your existing network.
With such a focus on building new connections, it doesn’t take long to forget about your current ones. Never underestimate the value of your existing network – a great example of quality over quantity.
If you ever want to utilise your network or work collaboratively with them at any point, it’s a great idea to give back every now and then – show them you appreciate them, grab lunch or a drink, and catch up once in a while. Remember, this is a mutually beneficial relationship, and you’ll never reap the rewards if you let your contacts fall off your radar.
Not collaborating with your network to win a dream client.
Speaking of mutually beneficial relationships, why not see what your network can offer when it comes to rounding out your skill set? Clients value convenience, which means the broader your scope of services, the better off you will be.
Sit down with your contacts and see what kind of knowledge or skills you can exchange that might add value to your overall service. If you’re looking to pitch for a dream client as an example, you should be utilising every skill, service, technology or trend available to you in order to really impress.
For example, here at Agent99 we host a monthly ‘Professional Series’, where we invite guests (both existing contacts and new friends) from complementary agencies that we can learn from, or potentially utilise to enhance our own services. This is also an exciting opportunity for the team to learn what else is out there!
Not going out of your way to recommend and connect the people you trust and have worked with before.
As they say, what goes around comes around, and this is definitely true for the good words you put in for your network of contacts. They may be one of your greatest sources of endorsement, and you wouldn’t even know it! It’s a small world, and you never know the kind of company your network members may keep. An ideal client of yours perhaps? If you know or work with someone that you genuinely love working with, pay it forward and put in a good word wherever appropriate.
After all, isn’t that what networking is really about? Helping one another grow and spreading our successes.