Have you heard the phrase, “ Your network is your net worth?” Well, it’s true. To put it roughly, when you are walking around in telecom networking events you are trying to increase your net worth. However, there is a misconception about what telecom networking people have in their minds: when they walk around the giant room, they are trying to be as extroverted as they possibly can.
Shaking hands, exchanging business cards: all of those formal and totally irrelevant tactics are going to get you nowhere. Then what is, right? Think about this, “who would actually care about helping you, giving you an opportunity?” And the answer is someone who actually cares about you. So those networks you make in about 3 minutes are not enough to get you somewhere.
I will give you this one clue: the best networking you can do is going to be based on genuine curiosity. When you put people in one room and give them all the same task of doing networking, you create a fake environment where people no longer care. The truth is, people don't like "being networked." Do you want to network right? Here are 7 best practices you should follow.
#1. Friends are better than contacts
First and foremost, don’t try to make contacts. Get out of your box, make an effort to become everyone’s friend. I mean, friends like to help each other, right?
You should want to find out everything you can about the other person. If that was a person you wanted to become friends with, you would want to know what their hobbies are, what their family is like. You would also care to know what they like to eat before you go grab a lunch together.
Make an effort to find out what your potential friend’s dreams are, why is he/she does what he/she is doing. While your making-a-friend project is moving forward, you will find yourself interested in how you can help the person in front of you. And eventually, your friend will feel the same. Genuinely opening yourself up to others and connecting in an emotional way will get you somewhere.
When you are able to help each other, when something comes back to you as a result of your “networking,” great. And if not, then at least you made a brand new friend. But the important thing to remember is that if you were not friends with this person, they would probably not care enough to make an effort and get you that big job you wanted in that big company.
#2. Listening is key
Listening is one of the best networking hacks in the world. By now you probably already know that people don’t like to listen: they would rather talk, and they would rather talk about themselves all day long. But if you find yourself in the world of entrepreneurship, you will see how much people will value when you show genuine interest and listen what they are saying.
If you stop for a second and think, you will realize that all we do is wait for the person in front of us to finish speaking so we can start talking again. And we all are used to that. So when someone who listens intently to everything we say comes along, you are surprised to a level that can’t shut our mouths, so you just keep talking. And while that is going on, we start seeing the listen as our friend. We trust the person; feel safe to share with them the deepest of our fears.
So when we stop and listen to what people have to say, first of all, we learn. And second of all, we make friends and build strong networks as fast as possible.
#3. What is your story?
They say the strongest brands have a great story behind them. So stop for a second and think about what your story is. When we hear about people starting from nothing to climbing to the top, we give them more credit than we would have.
Keep in mind that people do business with people who have integrity. People also do business with people they trust will get the job done. And lastly, people do business with people who stand out from the crowd. And while they could visit your website and try to find out what your story is, reading a bunch of genuine words is not quite the same as saying them out loud.
One mistake that people make is telling the story they think others want to hear. But tell the one that is true, that comes from your heart and you will stand out. So what does your story tell about yourself?
#4. Don’t undervalue introduction
A warm lead is always better than a cold lead. If you can get through with a referral, even it is nothing but, “this is a friend of a friend of a friend...” that will always 100% be better than an email or phone call.
The thing is, that you can’t take too much advantage of other’s networks. It is, in fact, on you to build your own. Moreover, you have to have something of equal value to share before you ask for introductions.
There are three important things you need to take into consideration before asking a person for an introduction. You need to make sure that the person you are asking feels comfortable doing so because: she sees you as a friend, she trusts you will follow through and do a good job, and she knows that down the road, she can take advantage of your network as well.
#5. Think about giving not getting
Write this on a sticky note and shove it into your brain: give 10x more than everyone else.
When you meet someone, your first thought should evolve around how can you help that person. One mistake that we make is not thinking about giving but think about getting.
I mean, it is so easy. Think about it, if you meet someone, and they immediately ask for something, you know that they are nothing more than a stepping stone. And who likes to feel that way?
But when you meet someone who is helping you to reach a goal or make a connection, they are doing so much more for your relationship. They are establishing a friendship. And right there at that moment, they are building trust.
So remember to give, give and give. And then maybe give some more.
#6. Your word is everything
You are either there or you are not. Nobody is going to make referrals to you if you are “kind of reliable.” And no one is going to make inductions to you is you are “sometimes there.”
Maybe when you were in kindergarten and promised your pal to bring him candy and did not, your word did not mean that much. But in business, your word and reputation are your greatest assets. If you promised to do something, do it.
#7. Don’t forget to introduce yourself
Introduce yourself: the simplest hack there is. Keep in mind that referrals are great, but at the end of the day it is you and only you. So grab life by its horns and say, “this is who I am and this is what I do.”
I hope you take a very important clue from all of this babbling: networking is not about hacking anyone. Networking is about being real, being who you are, being open and genuine. It is also about making friends.
And at the end of the day, trust the law of nature: be who you are and you will attract who you need.