Network Smarter, Not Harder

Your networking goal is to connect with people who can support you in achieving your business goals and who you can support in return. That won’t happen overnight, so it’s important to have a clear view of how you will build these relationships ...

As the actor Will Rogers famously said, "You never get a second chance to make a good first impression." The first step on your journey to great connections is to think about the first impression you will make. Whatever your business, you will certainly want to appear professional and competent.

"You will also want to be open and approachable!"

So, pace yourself and be realistic about what will follow from your first introduction. A good approach might be simply to say you would like to find out more about someone's business and suggest that you have a one-to-one meeting.

Choose a location that's convenient for you both, ideally at an interesting venue and with some refreshment involved so that it is an easy and comfortable experience. Find out about each other's current work-related activities and share some personal details too.

Be open to the outcome, but also think about how you might be able to help your new contact. Ideally, you will both leave with a specific action that will be the beginning of a longer-term relationship.

When you want to reach out to someone, always check to see if you have mutual contacts or interests. Finding some common ground is a good foundation for a working relationship. Better still, you might know someone or something that can be helpful.

If you can make a useful introduction, for example, ask what you should say about their interest and the outcome they would like, such as a phone call or meeting.

If you feel comfortable and confident then ask for an introduction. When asking for an introduction via email, write a draft they could send on your behalf, which takes most of the effort out of their hands. It's the perfect way to clearly explain the purpose of the introduction and how the recipient could benefit – no one can do that better than you.

How to find your network:

- Look inside - start within your own network, thinking of family, friends, and colleagues. Ask who could offer advice or who they could connect you with? Social media platforms usually allow you to see mutual contacts, so your first connection could help to make an onward introduction

- Communities - join online and real-life communities that bring together people who share the same interests

- Social media - there are so many digital options available you can make connections locally and around the world so it makes sense to use them

- Mentorship - mentoring connects mentors and mentees and is a very positive way to add value to networking relationships. You can offer your expertise to help someone grow and develop or you can benefit from someone else's knowledge and experience

- Events - networking events are good places to start, but you never know who you might meet at non-professional events too. Enjoy yourself on social occasions, but also look out for opportunities to make new business connections at the same time

Make sure you nail your networking opportunities and if you want to see how it's done, come and visit BNI Sterling sometime soon.