Hand out your business cards, they said. Introduce yourself and shake hands, they said. These rules may have worked for your ma and pa, but in the era where the handshakes are (often) virtual and every second Tom, Dick and Harriet is an entrepreneur with wares to spruik, the old way just doesn’t cut it. So, how do you network in a way that’s powerful enough to ensure you’re heard among the noise?
Well, during my decades-long (almost three, in fact) career running global businesses, I have learnt that networking with others is the key to everything else in business falling into place.
In fact, I actually prefer to use the term ‘connecting’, rather than ‘networking’ – as while the latter signifies to me superficial introductions, the former is all about building deeper connections that are mutually beneficial to all parties involved.
So, in the name of sharing, read on as I reveal part of the blueprint I’ve used throughout my career, from landing big-name clients such as Nespresso while running my PR company, Torstar, to forming relationships with thought-leaders like Marianne Williamson and powerhouse CEOs including Pip Edwards, Lisa Messenger and Camilla Franks.
Keep networking simple
I have witnessed a big shift in the expectations around networking, particularly over the past decade. Now that everybody is busier, often working remotely and juggling tighter budget constraints, people appreciate methods that are more time- and cost-effective.
Whether you’re a female entrepreneur seeking to expand your brand imprint or a C-suite executive looking to build your reputation, remember that people don’t expect you to wine and dine them. In 2022, your contacts just want to know they are partnering with the right people, who will deliver the outcome aligned with their values and company goals.
Which brings me to…
Keep networking personal
People love human connection. Even when we’re making connections virtually, via Zoom for instance, don’t skip straight to business without spending that all-important time asking (really asking) how the other person is, both in business and life. Then, skip the temptation to rush through the ‘small talk’, and truly listen to their answer. Make notes so that you can include well-wishes around their upcoming jaunt to Hawaii or wedding in your follow-up email, as well as attending to the business end of communications.
Keep networking targeted
How many LinkedIn inboxes or Instagram DMs do you delete instantly when you can tell, even from the subject line, that it’s a blanket message? Nobody wants to be targeted by a robot or a standard sales pitch – yet so many people still attempt this approach. So, this one’s simple but oh-so crucial: be sure to tailor your approach to the specific person you are seeking to connect with.
We typically focus on making a good impression of ourselves when forging a new connection, but your contacts really want you to understand who they are and what their business does. So, you need to show up armed with these simple facts ahead of time. Spending time researching who you are meeting beforehand is a win-win, as nobody wastes the time they have invested in the meeting, and you can get down to more important business.
Keep networking mutually beneficial
I can tell in a red-hot minute if someone is a taker, versus interested in a deep connection that benefits us both. If someone has no interest in taking the time to get to know you prior to meeting you, that’s what I call a time-waster. Ideally, making true connections should involve a conversation that will deliver a mutual energy exchange to elevate you both in business and life.
I believe that your energy shifts and your energetic aura is more visible to others when you invest your time in two-way human connection. When you give out energy that’s lit up around giving, as well as receiving, people are drawn to you. High-vibrational people understand the power of engagement and always seek to take both parties to the next level of success in their interactions. So, be sure to consider what the other party needs, and how you can be of service to them, as well as attending to your own goals.
Keep networking human
Of course, the power of networking today is that you can pick up the phone or sit on a Zoom call with anyone, anywhere in the world. Having said this, one of the biggest mistakes I see clients and my amazing mentees in the Business Attraction Program make, is when they start relying too heavily on digital communications in place of person-to-person connection. While these tools have opened up so many doors, always hiding behind emails or sales navigation tools and ‘pitching’ from a sales sheet just does not deliver results.
In fact, this is why I launched our popular Coffee Challenge. I commit to having three coffee dates a week – either in person or via zoom – because I know how valuable face-to-face contact is for building true rapport with those you want to add to your network. And, if you sign up to the Coffee Challenge, I’ll take you along for the ride!
Did you know that at Powerful Steps, we regularly host in-person networking events? Past speakers include Samantha Brett from Naked Sundays and Felicity Harley, host of the hit Healthyish podcast. Want to come along and connect with like-minded women in business? Sign up here and be the first to know when tickets go on sale to our popular networking events.