What’s your networking style? Do you dread going to networking events and hang out by the food, hoping for the best? Do you like to get into the thick of it and count the business cards you’ve collected as a measure of your success? Well, when it comes to networking, I have found you have to give to get, and that’s how I discovered these better networking techniques that really work.
There are right ways and wrong ways to network. If you do it the right way, even the most introverted among us can wind up enjoying networking events. If you do it the wrong way, you’ll wind up wasting your time, not having fun, and probably not be very successful at it either.
The most successful way to network that I’ve found so far is the “give to get” method. It’s really more of a mindset or a philosophy. And it works just the way it sounds. It’s the idea that in order get whatever it is you’re after, you have to give to others first.
It’s very much like the philosophy that The Income Tax School is built on. I built The Income Tax School first and foremost to help individuals start their own tax businesses so they could in turn help others. We measure success by how many people we’ve helped become independent entrepreneurs – who in turn hire others in their own communities, creating jobs and contributing to their local economies.
How “give to get” really works
Giving doesn’t have to mean that you’re giving up money or services necessarily. It’s more of a mindset that if you give of yourself by sharing energy, knowledge, and connections that can help the people you’re networking with, good things will come to you in return.
It works on two levels. On the first level, you’ll build up a reputation as being a helpful, generous person. People will remember how you helped them and return the favor if an opportunity comes up.
On another level, whether you believe in things like karma or not, generally the energy you give to the world is the energy you get back. So, even if the people you helped don’t directly “pay you back,” somehow it all works out in the end and good things come to you.
On another practical note, putting your own needs on the back burner takes the pressure off you and the people you’re interacting with. That alone can make networking go more smoothly! You’re not pushing yourself on them. It makes it easier for everyone to talk. A lot of people feel nervous at these things. By asking people about themselves to get the conversation going, it gives them a starting point. They don’t have to find some awkward way to start the conversation.
So what does “giving to get” look like in a practical sense at a networking event?
Introduce people to each other
If you’re talking to a small business owner who needs to meet a contractor, and you happen to know a really good one who is there at the same event, introduce them to each other then and there. If the two parties aren’t in the same place, make an email introduction later. Make it a habit to connect as many people as possible. It will help your friends and build those community ties.
Listen to what others need
When someone tells you they need help with marketing, are they really asking for a web designer or a copywriter? Or do they need help posting on social media? If someone says they are experiencing a problem and you’re not sure what the answer is, is there someone else you know who can pinpoint the problem and maybe point them in the direction of a real solution?
Really listen to what people are telling you in order to help them solve the right problem. Also, listen to people when they tell you what they do. Ask them who their target audience is and what kinds of problems they solve for, in case you know someone who would be a good match for them.
In a notebook, on your phone, or on the backs of business cards, however you decide to do it, make notes about whom you speak with – notes about physical characteristics (to help you remember them) as well as what you talk about and what problems they want to solve. Also take good notes about what they can do for others in case you run into someone who can use their services.
ABC: Always be connecting
Alec Baldwin was close but not quite when he said, “ABC, always be closing.” But instead of “always be closing,” at networking events you should “always be connecting.” Look for connections between people you know and people you’ve just met. Find opportunities to introduce people to each other and connect them to information and resources they need. Not only will it will your reputation as a person people can trust and go to as a resource; it’s how you build bonds in your community.