Statutory Warning: This is going to be a long (but super super useful!) article.
Until four years ago, I had absolutely no affinity for the concept of networking, at either a professional or personal level. I didn’t care about meeting new people or getting a different job. In 2013 I made a new friend by accident. I saw how he networked through life, and slowly began to understand what I’d been missing out on. He’d been in Mumbai for just six months, and had already networked his way into a job that paid three times more than his old one in Delhi. His connections were getting him into business circles that had the founders of billion-dollar tech companies, letting him attend parties and events that the general public didn’t even know existed.
Time to start making some high-value contacts. I began by getting back in touch with some of my old school and college friends via LinkedIn and Facebook. Then I liked their statuses and commented on their posts sporadically. Finally I joined some online groups related to startups in my city, posted there and engaged with a few people. Surprise, surprise… It didn’t make a milligram of difference to my life.
About a year into my hopeless networking endeavours, I met this ‘accidental’ friend at a pub near my place, kicking back with craft beer, boneless mutton chunks and cheese fries. An hour or two into our mugs, I slipped him the crucial question: Where was I going wrong? Why weren’t my social efforts helping me out at all? I gave him a short version of what I’d been doing for the past twelve months, and it just made him laugh.
Good networking isn’t going to take you to high places in life, but great networking certainly will. The differences between the two are so simple and obvious, yet nearly none of us know them.
A good networker seeks out people at events, explains their product, hands out their card and drifts away.
A great networker follows four steps in a specific order.
There’s a TEDx talk explaining the concept. It’s by Christopher Barrat, given in Vienna in 2015. My friend was quite literally following his own version of these steps, that he’d somehow come up with all by himself. Basically, they are:
Know: Get to really know someone. Not through a professional networking website, not via email, not over a call. Speak to them in person. There is no substitute for face-to-face communication. Surveys have revealed that over 95% of people feel that face-to-face communication is essential for long term business relationships. Do you know a single meaningful relationship that was established without a physical meeting? Hey, don’t throw in an example of some couple that met on a dating app. They just became aware of each other’s existence using that app; they got to know each other when they first met in real life.
Like: How on Earth do you get a stranger relate with you in a few minutes? It’s easy. You have to be interested in what they have to say too. Be awed by them, be completely engaged in what they have to say. Once they know you’re interested in them, reciprocity is easier. Listen three times as much as you speak.
Keep in mind that you need to be genuine- focus on similarities that you both have. What if you still can’t get someone to like you? It’s simple: move on, there are other people!
If you got the first two right, then the other two should be the easiest thing.
Trust & Buy: Once you’ve won over a person (not as a customer but as a human being and nothing else), a few more minutes of honest conversation should suffice to make them wholeheartedly trust you. Have patience – a quality network outshines a quantity network anytime. When people trust you, they’re a lot more likely to prefer your product(s) over anyone else’s.
Do you think that listening too much and speaking little is a waste of time, something you can’t really afford? Well, think about this: invest your time in the correct people, and you’ll turn them into partners who personally recommend you to their entire network. Serious personal recommendations go above and beyond even the most expensive front-page newspaper ads.
Treat everyone you meet as useful. Most people are, though some are more useful than others. Identify those people – they’re the ones who will keep giving you leads and introduce you to new contacts. It’s always a two-way street, so help them in return.
When networking, never expect immediate returns. A human relationship is not a financial investment that pays you dividends or interest like clockwork. Have patience and stay positive!
P.S. You also need to understand that there will always be a few individuals who aren’t interested in you or your product, and won’t help you with recommendations or leads. They may just try selling you their own merchandise all the time. It’s perfectly safe to distance yourself from people like these, because your time is limited and is better spent on the ones who co-operate.
Now you’re all set to be a fantastic networker! Why don’t you check out the Ohai App and find great new professionals to network with?
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