How to network effectively

How to network effectively

Jakarasi

Networking can be very daunting and terrifying especially if you do not enjoy meeting people. However there is no option if you have to build your business. You need to meet people because these same people can help you build your business by putting you in touch with the right people who can assist you steer your business in the right direction. By networking you can meet people who might end up mentoring you. Networking should not just be a matter of exchanging business cards or shaking hands and say a few words. It’s more than that.
To network you need to get out of your comfort zone and go and meet people. You can either join a sport, golf club, a gym, a business association in your neighbourhood or join a hobby where you are likely to meet people of similar interests. Networking is ideal when you meet people in a social setting where they will be relaxed and you can easily strike up a good conversation.
Networking is a two way communication so when you meet someone, you want to know that person and you also would like them to know you. You start with basic introductions – like introducing yourself, your name, your company, your position and you can then delve deeper into talking about the products or services your company offers and other pertinent business issues.
This will also then opens up discussions about that person’s business. From such discussions you can pick the needs of the other person, you might also ask about who makes buying decisions in that business. You need such information if eventually you have to do business with that person. In all these conversations you need to be a good listener and you need to ask pertinent questions. At the end of the discussions get the contact details of the person.
To develop a meaningful relationship make sure you are not intending to be the beneficiary only but you should present yourself as a problem solver. The other person should benefit from this relationship also. It’s important that you follow-up your first meeting with either a call or another meeting to cement the relationship. Usually you can’t gauge whether the relationship is worth continuing in the first meeting. So your initial meeting is to get to know each other and get contact details.
As you exchange contact information and business cards, quickly jot down notes about what you spoke about with that person to help you when following up later. Always appreciate every connection you make by thanking them.
To benefit from networking you need to plan what you want to achieve from a meeting, an upcoming conference or an event. If you are going for a conference check who is attending and then go to LinkedIn or that person’s company website and get information prior to meeting people who interest you. You could then actually follow up with those people via other social media like Twitter or Facebook. In this way you are already starting a relationship which you could cement when you meet the person face-t0-face at the conference.
Make sure as you network you surround yourself with smarter people because this will push you to become better. They say “Iron sharpens iron.” You need people who will impart change into your life or business.
In order to benefit from networking or from attending networking events you need to adopt a systematic approach to networking. Always evaluate your current network to identify those connections that are missing and then you selectively choose the events most likely to be attended by the types of people you are looking for. Target such people and speak to them and see how they can help your business grow, either directly or through a referral. You need to draw up a long-term plan like you do in every business activity. Draw up a networking strategy. Your main goal would be to grow your business through your circle of contacts and in the process they also should be benefiting from relating with you.
The old way of networking, face-to-face interaction, is still key in business, but however you can use social media to find new contacts. You can use Facebook, LinkedIn or other social media by joining groups with like-minded people.
When you have met someone at an event, as you converse with them, try to identify three types of needs as explained by Aaron Carrano, programme manager at Google. These needs include latent needs – needs which customers aren’t aware of yet; direct needs – which customers inform you of; and assumed needs – which you can deduce. As you listen carefully, you can align what that person needs with what you can offer. In your conversation you can now emphasise those needs that you can offer and that are needed by the other person.
After every encounter try to connect with the people you have just met on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. That way, you’ll get updates about what they are doing. Make sure you create a list of the contacts you’ve made, including important information about what you can offer one other.
Meeting someone new can be intimidating but by being prepared, being an active listener and maintaining a lasting relationship will make networking a worthwhile exercise. Networking can be fun and help you in generating more business.

About the author
Stewart Jakarasi is a business & financial strategist and a lecturer in business strategy and performance management. He provides advisory and guidance on leadership, strategy and execution, preparation of business plans and on how to build and sustain high-performing organisations.

For assistance in implementing some of the concepts discussed in these articles please contact him on the following contacts: sjakarasi@gmail.com or +266 58881062 or on WhatsApp +266 62110062

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