Networking to build a successful business
Have you heard of the Pareto principle? The principle is referred to the observation that roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. When applied to business, this principle points out that there are low-impact activities and high-impact activities. Here comes the main point of this article: networking is a high-impact activity.
You might feel like networking is just about free drinks and greeting people a lot, and while you don’t mind that too much, you’re better off doing something useful with your day. This is very wrong. All entrepreneurs who succeeded network. All startups that succeeded did that partly as a result of networking. It’s always been that who you know matters just as much as what you know. And sometimes it matters even more.
Here are the main reasons networking is so consequential.
Networking allows you to meet people who know more than you do. Especially, this is true for educational events like conferences. If you are just entering the field or happen to be highly skilled in one part of what you do (e.g., programming) but not the other (e.g., marketing), insight and guidance is what you need the most. Networking is the way to hear useful advice from like-minded people, find out more about other businesses, discover hacks and strategies.
You might think you can get just as informed by reading interviews and relevant articles. Unfortunately, this is very unlikely to happen. People rarely share everything they know in the media. Instead, you’re usually bombarded with the success stories, while the real talks happen over a glass of free wine at a friendly conference nearby.
People go to networking events for the opportunities. And rightfully so. A large professional network is bound to be ripe of opportunities. At any point in time, someone is looking to hire, to solve a business problem, to invest. If you network often enough, you soon build up a reputation for yourself that secures you referrals, interesting projects, clients, and who knows what else. Similarly, you get the opportunity to observe professionals in a relatively natural setting, as opposed to an interview, and search for talents. “Getting noticed” is a real thing when it comes to business networking, and it goes both ways.
You might feel like a business superhero. And you know what, I am sure you are. However, when it comes to business development, it’s very important to have the support. In this case, I don’t mean just your family and friends. I mean entrepreneurs who’ve been in a similar situation and got through it, people who have the power to help you, experts who can share the life-saving tips with you. Sometimes, it’s necessary to even just hear from other business people that failures happen and that it’s fine.
Interestingly enough, networking events connect you with such people. In no time you start sharing the challenges you’ve faced and exchange emails in case one of you needs help.
First, it’s important to simply show up at networking events and get to know people. Your face has to become recognised on business events so that when one recalls your field of expertise, they automatically recall you as well. Second, your goal should be to build a reputation for yourself of someone who’s an expert in their niche, who is trustworthy, and who’s good to do business with. Meetups, conferences, and co-working spaces exist so that you could build your personal brand while learning or working.
5. Social skills
Not all entrepreneurs, founders, marketers, and other business people are extroverts. For some, joining a conversation at a conference or talking to a well-known expert might seem dreadful. For others, just being at a networking event with plenty of strangers is a challenge.
However, it’s a challenge that should be accepted. Social skills are extremely important in business. Everything from gaining experience to raising funds requires social skills. And the good news is, the more you listen and talk to different people, the easier it becomes. With time, you get good at it, and when one becomes truly good at something, anxiety fades and confidence builds up. This makes you braver, more sociable, and better skilled in building connections.
Now that you’ve realised why networking events exist and why they are necessary to have a successful business, here’re some tips to network right.
- Listen and ask questions. If networking doesn’t come naturally to you, concentrate on being a good listener. This builds relationships and fosters learning.
- Avoid “sales speak”. No one, including investors, enjoys being sold to at networking events.
- Have a personal story and a business story ready. This, of course, doesn’t mean you should come up to people and start telling them how you’ve dreamed of being the next Zuckerberg since you discovered how much money the existing one makes. But if asked, you should be able to tell a compelling story behind your ideas, values, challenges, and wins.
- Have a system for collecting contacts. Follow up after the networking event: no relationship is built over night. Well, at least the business ones tend to take some time.
Are you ready to go out there and start making professional contacts and maybe even friends? Start with the Ride.Right.Now conference that will happen on July 6, 2019 in Minsk, Belarus.