Anyone Can Learn to Network - Business Results
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Anyone Can Learn to Network

Anyone Can Learn to Network

Post-pandemic, it seems like everyone either needs to brush up on their networking skills, or they need to be learned for the first time. Networking is important for everyone, not just salespeople, because it helps organizations to establish and maintain connections with potential customers or donors, business partners, and suppliers. Networking offers benefits including access to valuable resources and opportunities to learn new skills or gain industry insights, as well as having the chance to exchange best practices and experiences.

These networking events, whether at a conference or a business social event, hold immense potential for personal and professional growth. Networking isn’t merely a gathering; it’s an avenue to unearth opportunities, including possible new hires for your organization, different vendors or marketers, and other collaborations. Networking allows you and your business to shine outside of work.

Networking comes naturally to some, but most people might find themselves grappling with its nuances. Whether you’re introverted, new to business networking generally, or just skeptical of the value of networking, here’s a few tips to help you learn to network and nurture those relationships after the event.

The first step is to just make time for networking. We get that you have busy work schedules. But try to make networking a regular part of your calendar. Look for upcoming conferences in your area, or in your industry, as well as gatherings for nonprofits or other entities which can help you build your network. Then regularly attend those events. One-time networking isn’t going to build your network of real connections.

Identify people you might want to meet at those events. Think of things in advance that you might say about your job or your organization and have a few questions you want to ask (especially if you get nervous around new people). You’re not going to read these to a person at the event, but it helps to think it through things before you go. And think about what value you can offer them beyond your company’s products or services. Can you connect them with other resources that you know about? Remember, networking thrives on reciprocity.

When preparing for an event, don’t just look at who is attending. Learn about the breakout topics or speakers, and look at those company’s websites or news articles. This can help you ask smart questions in conversations with the different people you’ll meet.

If you don’t have an elevator pitch, you’ll want to make one and then practice it. An elevator pitch is a succinct 30-second statement that introduces you and your organization and ideally sparks curiosity. Don’t overshare about any unreleased projects or company secrets. Focus on your role and your business, leaving room for back-and-forth in a conversation at that moment, or for future interactions.

On the day of the event, try to arrive early or on time. This allows you to engage in conversations before the crowds thicken, giving you time to establish a few connections before little cliques begin to form. Bring business cards (yes, people still use them) and ask to exchange cards. If you do arrive later, you’ll have to politely ask to join a group. “May I join you,” is an easy go-to. Remember, this is a networking event. Not a sales event. So, for the salespeople, you’ll have to resist the urge to go into your sales pitches. You want to let conversations flow naturally. Listen intently, because that’s the heart of real connections. Two ears, one mouth – this is a ratio that’s not to be disregarded.

Post-event, extend the connection to online platforms such as LinkedIn or other social networks. Initiate follow-up meetings within a month. This gives you an opportunity to follow up on any conversations over a call or coffee. Remember, networking is not a transaction; it’s an investment in relationships that yield dividends over time. When it comes to networking, it’s not only about what you gain, but what you give that makes real connections.