How to Network Like a Pro!
By Aaron Robles, Founders Spark and Hypernova Starting a business is an experience like no other. From making time to do everything you have to do, figuring out some type […]
By Aaron Robles, Founders Spark and Hypernova
Starting a business is an experience like no other. From making time to do everything you have to do, figuring out some type of work/life balance, and the huge learning curve of developing new skills in marketing, legal, and more, it’s an extensive and exhausting pursuit.
While this comes with the territory no matter what type of business you’re starting, don’t worry, because eventually, it does get easier. In the many years of being an entrepreneur, I can confidently say that there’s one thing that has helped me consistently grow faster, improve the quality of my services, and save me time, energy, and most importantly of all—money.
And no, it’s not a new revolutionary software, or waking up at 5 a.m. to meditate—I’m talking about good old fashion networking.
Now, while you’ve probably heard of all the benefits of networking, you might have a question: how the heck do I actually start to network?
It can be intimidating to go to events where you don’t know anyone, especially introducing yourself as an “entrepreneur” when that title doesn’t feel quite like you yet. Not to mention, how many people out there are introverts and get queasy at the thought of going to an event with so many people.
I’m going to break down some of the most important things you need to know to network like a pro, even if you’re just getting started:
Know Your Why
To avoid spending time at the wrong events, you must first know what you’re trying to get out of networking. Is it to find more clients? Maybe you’re looking for a mentor? Understanding what you’re looking for is going to help you decipher what type of networking you should do.
Go Where Your Key Audience Is
Now that you know who you’re looking for and why, you need to make sure that you’re hitting the right places. A graphic designer who’s looking for new clients may think that he needs to go to an event geared toward creatives, but all they’re going to find are other creatives–not clients. They’d be much better off going to an event for small business owners where local organizations would need a graphic designer. Learn about the type of people you want to meet and what types of events they frequent.
Prepare Talking Points
If you’re new to networking or struggle with meeting new people, it’ll be helpful to prepare short talking points. Write out a brief elevator pitch on what you do, why you’re so passionate about what you do, and any other key information. Make sure to write down a few questions that you can ask the people you meet, as well. Remember, follow-up questions are your best friend; people love talking about themselves!
Express Genuine Interest
One of the most important elements of networking is to connect in a way that is truly authentic. The point of networking is to find people you genuinely are interested in and want to build relationships with. Not everyone is going to be your cup of tea, in those cases, be kind, keep it concise, and keep on moving. Just make sure that the bonds you build are authentic and not rooted in self-interest.
As you meet people, you may find those who could be a potential client or maybe they’d make a great mentor. Before you spring into asking them for favors, especially if they’re big ones, make sure that you lead with what you can offer them. Potential clients may benefit from you giving them feedback on something they are working on. Someone you want to have as a mentor may benefit from a book recommendation. Whatever it is, when you ask the right questions, you’re bound to find a way to help enrich their life that will make them much more open to enriching yours.
Make the Ask
While it may not be something you do in the first five minutes of your conversation, you need to know when you make your ask. You’d be surprised how many people wait around for someone to offer something because they’re too shy to ask. The art of making the ask is to do it in a low-pressure way. Instead of saying, “Can you please be my mentor,” instead ask, “Would you be open to me writing you an email asking you a few specific questions on this project I’m working on when you get a chance.” The second is a much lower investment on their end and gives them flexibility while showing you respect their time.
Remember that networking is like a garden; it takes time to bloom. Make sure to be patient with yourself and let the fruits of your labor blossom organically. It’ll take consistency but will bring you a community that’s invested in you and your success.