Networking with people is a constant occupation if we want to create opportunities for your professional life. Think about this, if you don’t leave the house you will never meet anybody and will be forgotten. People who seek new opportunities constantly are the ones who will get the best chance of success in life.
This guide will help you build your Professional or Business Network. We have divided it into 3 different steps: Preparing to Network, Online Networking Activities and Live Networking Activities.
The first one helps you to set up your network process, with activities like building your LinkedIn page or making a presentation document. The second will help you identify the networking activities you can do online in the computer while the third will guide on networking in live events.
Preparing to Network
Before starting the network process you should start by preparing yourself to communicate with your target audience. Here are some ways you can prepare:
1. Start with the Why
The beginning of the preparation needs to be you asking yourself the right questions. What is your purpose for you to connect with people? What is what you are going to communicate? What is the goal you want to accomplish when connecting to people? It could be several goals at the same time like, sell a product/service, connect with more people, recruit someone or even get a partner or a representative of your brand.
You should first answer all these questions before stepping up the preparation process, since materials and presentations are dependent on your goals.
2. Prepare a Memorable Presentation
Wherever your goal is, you should always build a presentation of what you want to communicate. This is an important step since presentations need to be mature so that they can communicate “effectively” what you do. One suggestion is to start with the “problem” you want to solve and then make the way into the solution.
Restructure your presentation as a “Pitch”, by including the following sections:
- Problem you want to solve;
- Solution you propose;
- Advantages and differentiation of the solution;
- Market you want to address;
- How are you doing it, how it will be successful and the next steps;
- References of what you've done already.
This is only a guideline but normally people will believe you when you show them that you have studied the problem.
The presentation should also include a few images related to the problem and solution you are proposing. Wrap it up on a presentable PDF and you’re good to go. Don’t forget, after connecting to anyone you will need to make the follow up, and what better way to make a person remember you than sending him a good presentation of what you, what you believe or want to accomplish.
3. Create a Compelling Pitch
After building your presentation this step will be much easier. A Pitch is a plan that you present to a person of interest to get him on board with something you want. A Pitch needs to be your idea explained and proved in a short discourse of up to 2 minutes.
Here is a good template for a pitch. Make it short and try to use only one sentence for each item:
Problem and Opportunity
- Describe the problem or activity you want to solve
- Describe the pain that people have with that problem and how is that an opportunity
- What is your Unique Selling Proposition (USP), how you will solve it
What benefits or advantages you solution brings to the table
- Talk about the target market of you solution
- Show how large the market is
- How the market will adhere to your solution so that it can scale
- how will you distribute your solution to your target market
- How will you sustain your business (revenue model ) and how much it will cost
- Show what milestones at the nearest and at distance and what is the most exciting accomplishment you’re aiming for
You will need several iterations to have a good Pitch. But when you’re comfortable with it you can start training it in front of the people you most trust. Just turn something you believe in into your introductory speech.
If you want you can train and also make videos of yourself. When you have the right pitch you can turn it into a professional video and publish it.
4. Create a compelling LinkedIn profile
The most important brand you will “sell” is your own. LinkedIn is definitely the first place to have the professional description of yourself (there can be others, but this is mandatory).
After meeting you in a professional way, most people will look for you on social networks such as LinkedIn and maybe others too. LinkedIn is used to connect but also to keep track of what you do. It is also a place where people confirm that you are what you say and what are your professional achievements.
Here are some tips you should look to make you linkedin page appealing and trustworthy:
Choose the right picture for your profile
Visuals sell. Upload a professional looking picture, make sure it is recent and look smiley.
Choose an inspiring background photo
Make it your own like a photo of you talking in a conference or reference something that you believe in.
Make the headline more than just a job title
Use the headline field to say a bit more about your role, like why you do what you do. Alternatively use it to append several roles on several companies or projects.
Tell your story in the summary
The summary is your chance to tell your own story. Don’t use it just to list your skills, job titles or describe a role. Mention what you’re passionate about and how you’re making it a reality. Invest some time on it because this is the most important piece of content marketing you will write about.
Things to avoid
Don’t describe yourself as ‘experienced’, ‘expert’, ‘innovative’, ‘leader’, ‘experienced’ or other self-aggrandizing or arrogant terms, instead be humble and be subtle. Don’t exaggerate in the use of buzzwords, especially don’t use terms like ‘Industry 4.0’ or other senseless terms.
Grow your network, organically
Most articles will tell you to connect with your gmail/facebook contacts. My advice is DON’T DO IT! Be selective, be focused, don’t trust an “export feature” to build your network. Your network deserves to be clean and focused, not a mere friend list (for that you have facebook)
Fill your relevant skills
This one of the quickest wins on LinkedIn, just scroll through the list of skills and identify those that are relevant to you. Just concentrate on a few ones, so that the platform and your contacts can endorse the ones you’re most experienced.
There is much more you can do to prepare and build your LinkedIn page, however these will be mentioned in a more detailed article about the platform.
2. Online Networking Activities
Networking is a continuos job of research and discover so that you can select the right opportunities and the right people. Befrore engaging on the networking task specifically you will need to know where to look.
Social Media Suggestions
Social media is an effective way to filter contacts better before engaging or meeting them face to face. In social media you control your time and what direction you’re willing to go.
You can use the time to filter what contacts are most important for your activities. Think of social media contacts as the bigger pie where you will select the best contacts later. You can connect with them easily and then at a later phase send them a message for a more detailed interaction.
Nevertheless, don’t add people for adding, just select the most relevant ones for your activities and be very meticulous and strict with whom you invite. Having a more selected network will help you to be more accurate and focused.
You can choose to add new contacts from:
People that you already meet
. The easiest way to meet people is through referrals. Credibility will be greater if you contact someone by a common contact, preferably if they have already met before.
which will suggest you the most probable matching by several parameters such as your existent contacts, common city, common events, common friends and also by sector of activity. AI algorithms can also suggest by match behaviors and other parameters.
Looking at the contacts of your contacts or the contacts of people you follow
.The last ones are way more interesting because you can choose contacts of your competitors or from people who you know have great reputation and relevant contacts to you.
Looking at specific groups or sectors
. You can choose specific groups where you know people might be more open to match with your interests or a specific task you need. If you’re working and looking for contacts in sustainability just search for relevant groups, sectors or even specific events. You can also search by tag.
Looking for people in specific places or countries
. You can choose people from specific countries or regions depending on your goals. For example If you're interested in having a business partner in Berlin you should filter your search by people in Berlin and select the most interesting profiles or the ones who have contacts in common.
People that invite you
. Depending on the type of content you publish and your profile there will be some invitations from people that want to connect. Unless they are from people you really met or that have a common activity, these contacts should not be on your interest list. You should be very selective with whom you accept, otherwise you will lose time and focus.
Social Media Posting and Commenting
Posting and commenting can bring you important contacts related to the subject you’re posting about. In our experience, if you want to focus on getting contacts it is better to comment on people that you want to connect with. Posting will get you visiblibility (and authority), while commenting is to get you the contacts you’re looking for.
If you want to connect with a certain group of people that belongs for example to a certain institution you can post a comment on a post from an individual. For example, if a person goes to an important event and talks about the importance of their activity, you can add to the discussion and extend the theme, showing your expertise about it.
Don’t just say “Congratulations”, instead write about the theme and show that you’re also working on that area and have something to say about it. Make your comment count in relation to others. At the same time you can ask them to connect and the probability of acceptance will be high. Unless you have a good reason to contact the connection right away, we recommend that you don’t do it. Don’t ever write “Thank you for connecting with me” just for the sake of it. Nobody does that and your connection will deem you as unimportant with nothing to add. Wait for a real and engaging reason.
Social Media Follow up on your connections
This is the interesting part that will enable you to engage in a relationship with the individual which you are already connected to.
Before sending messages do your homework. Open a new spreadsheet (or CRM) and start selecting the connections you really want to contact. Please be very selective and create a real reason for the contact, and that will also be interesting to the other person. This is the key.
For example, you can contact that person to invite him/her to be speaker in an event or to write a paragraph on an essay you’re writing about a theme of interest. Just pick an activity that will enable you both to connect in a real way. There are so many ways to do it. Be creative, here are some ideias:
- “Hi Linda, I saw your event you participated in last month (the one you commented on) and I thought it would really be interesting to share your ideas on next week's event. Would like to have your input. Can I put you in contact with the promoter?”
- “Hi David! I saw your post last month about “xxxxx”. I have a contact person that works in that area that I would like you to meet. He’s from the US. He’s looking to get his business to Europe.”
- “Congratulations on your article about the Digital Divide. We have some ideas that we are working on and we wanted to validate with you. Here is the link! Can you give me some feedback?”
Of course you can present yourself before or after, but the important thing to remember is that you need a reason for the contact and that reason needs to be interesting to your connection.
Remember, be selective, be focussed, and contact only people when you have a real reason to do it. Otherwise it will be a missed opportunity.
Lastly, register every contact on a spreadsheet or your CRM application.
3. Live Networking Activities
Live networking is where the real networing take place. Depending on the place, the format of the event and the people that arr present, things can change a bit. The important thing is not to be by yourself and mingle with at least a smal group to start.
Meet people through other people
The easiest way to meet people in a physical location is when someone introduces you. Being introduced or joining in with their conversations will very likely make you receive a warm welcome.
Let the other person speak
Be sure that you don’t do all the talking. The key thing when meeting a new person is to be a good conversationalist and also a good listener. This way you will know more about its interests and know how to add to the conversation.
The worst mistake we can make is to do all the talking, which may lead to the person feeling uninterested in you and your activities. Every person is different and may be open or not to hearing from you, you’ve got a chance to analyze that.
Be selective, don’t waste time with people who don’t make your criteria
Sometimes you feel that you’re wasting your time talking with someone, and in a sense if you feel that this will not lead to a good match you should politely finish the conversation. Sometimes it’s difficult to cut the talk, but there are many ways to do it. Try not to fake a situation, instead, say that you saw someone you know and need to say hello.
Be selective and focused on your goals. Networking events have a time limit and there are other important contacts to be made in the room.
Present a Success Story
Without seeming arrogant, you should try mentioning a successful project you’ve made or something important you’re working on. People like and value success stories and that will boost your credibility with them. Just keep the story short, you only need to get that win, not to explain the boring details.
You should never mention how difficult things are going or negative things about anything. People will value your positivity and will want to be with you because of that.
We hope this guide has give you some hints on how to organize yourself to get the most of the networking process.