Networking has become a key element in our professional life. Making the right connections and finding ways to maintain them can be crucial to our career and business plans.
What can you do to add more value to your networking activity?
Don’t be afraid to talk to people and engage in conversation, even if you are alone and they are strangers. Be a good listener and be curious: ask questions and show your interest in your interlocutor. People do like it when others are interested in them, and they usually respond with a reciprocal interest.
Try to understand people, their style, their passions and their beliefs and try to make a connection in the conversation by focusing on the mutual elements that may create a link between you two. That could be anything: you both supporting the same football team, your shared passion for dogs or your interest in big data. Similarities attract, and people like people who are similar to them because it makes them feel stronger and on a safe ground.
Mutual interests are also a great way to stand out and make the others remember you, because by calling somebody’s passions you are appealing to their emotions. And even if it is believed that we are rational beings, it is proven that more than 50% of our decisions are subconsciously based on emotional grounds.
Don’t forget to smile! Positivity is contagious and if others feel you are positive and happy they are likely to feel a bit in that way, too!
- Connect & organize
Once you have created a « physical » link, make sure it doesn’t get lost by connecting with your interlocutor in the right way. Depending on their personality and style, there are several ways to keep in touch and organize the information you are getting from them.
They may vary from the traditional business card collection, e-mails and telephone numbers to electronic business cards and social media (mainly LinkedIn, Twitter and sometimes Facebook, if the connection you have made is quite informal): sometimes you may use all of them!
Be organized: scan your connection’s business card and create a virtual database – there are several ways to do that, from a simple Excel file to more sophisticated softwares and mobile apps that are available online for free. Define and make a to-do-list: why should a certain connection be important for you? when? what is your final goal?
Even if you may be unsure at this early stage, try to make an initial sketch to keep your ideas clear and avoid wasting time. Write your answers into the database, along with the information you received from that person during your meeting: that may be useful at a later stage in order to recall your conversation’s key elements, especially if you are planning to contact them after some time. If you recall the key elements, they will easily remember who you are even after a long time.
- Be active on social networks
Social networks are a great way to increase your visibility, keep in touch and share your interests (especially LinkedIn and Twitter for professional purposes).
Look for quality information, like, comment, share and create your own content. Update your status regularly at least two or three times a day and spread out your posts rather than posting them all at once.
Join and participate in groups that are relevant to your business and target market, discuss, ask questions and answer to comments and ask your connections what they think about a given topic. Give recommendations and endorse them.
If you are active on social networks you will not be forgotten and people will learn a lot about your interests and your personality.
- Keep in touch and re-engage
Check your database regularly. Make the point and be critical about your connections: we often develop overdependence to our network and we tend to keep in touch with the people we talk more or who are in similar roles to ourselves. Ask yourself: does your networking activity really add value to your professional plans? Check out regularly if your strategy and connections are still aligned with your professional goals. If not, you can choose to keep in touch for personal reasons: but keep it clear.
However, if you find that your connections are still relevant to your professional plans, be perseverant and consistent. Re-engage with them by finding a link to the former conversation you had: recall the key points and your mutual interests. Whether you choose to do it by phone, e-mail or on social networks, you may have to wait for an answer: keep positive and do not give up! Sometimes people don’t get back to you because they are busy, they have other priorities, they need more time to think or… they have simply forgotten!
Forget about your ego, do not get disappointed easily and stay focused on your ultimate goal only. Your motivation and your persistence can be crucial to accelerate the decision process, your enthusiasm can be contagious and influence the other person’s final decision. Do you know that as much as 80% of commercial sales are successful only after the twelfth contact? Do you think you can sell your dreams with less effort?
Keep believing. Keep dreaming. Keep persisting. Unless you get a clear and definitive “NO!” it means there is still a chance. And you have nothing to lose!