Connections. Whether deep or surface level, the world that we live in is built by the connections we’ve made, the people we know and the company we keep. In business, many people forget that the best (and sometimes only) way to grow is by networking, so why do so many people shy away from it?
The power of networking is indescribable. It’s the best kept not-so-secret in business and it’s so easy to do but if you are allowing it to take a backseat, you may be missing out on the important and necessary growth you are looking for.
You can have the best product or service in the world but if no one knows about it, how will you sell it? So many people have wonderful ideas; They start a business, they create something great but then they sit back and think it’s going to sell itself. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works.
Luckily, networking and truly connecting with people isn’t as hard as it seems. Even shy people can thrive (and have thrived) when they know that people are the cornerstone of business and that nothing beats word of mouth when it comes to advertising.
Here are three easy tips on how to broaden your network:
BE CONFIDENT IN YOUR BRAND AND IN YOURSELF
The biggest thing that holds people back from growing their network is confidence. If you’re holding back because you’re shy or scared to fail, then you’re doing yourself a disservice. Think about it, what’s truly the worst thing that can happen if you take the leap and reach out to someone? Extending your hand (whether in person or virtually) is seriously sometimes all it takes to change the direction of your business. If you want to meet the right people and grow the right network, you truly can’t afford to be shy and overthink it. Believe in yourself, grow your confidence and start introducing yourself.
USE DIGITAL TOOLS
For too many years (before Covid), networking meant stuffy conferences and big halls with lots of people who gathered in circles hard to break into. Don’t get me wrong, networking events and conferences can be a gold mine of connections and as the world opens back up, but this isn’t the only way to grow your network (though it shouldn’t be left out). Digital tools like Linkedin, Clubhouse and even Instagram and Twitter are amazing places to put yourself out there and meet the right people you’re looking for. Quick note: If you’re using these tools, especially Linkedin, and you decide to inbox someone, please for the love of God don’t start with a sales pitch. Instead, take a couple of weeks to engage with their content, leave comments on their posts and let them see you. Then, take the leap and send them a private message letting them know you’d love to chat sometime. Cold sales messages will get an immediate delete and are not the key to building a strong, supportive network.
BE A VALUABLE CONNECTOR
Lots of people go into networking thinking what they, themselves, can get out of it. If you’re one of these people, it’s time to switch your mindset. Connecting with people should be as much about how they can help you as how you can help them. Stop going in for the kill right off the bat. Instead, get to know them; What they do and how can you be of service. Even if they seem to have more experience, a bigger network or a stronger presence than you, you will be memorable and come across as authentic if, instead of asking them to help you, you turn it around and ask how you can help them. This is such an important piece of advice because at the end of the day, connections are all about helping each other, but they can never be one-sided. You must bring something to the table too. So, if you know other entrepreneurs you can introduce them to or if you’re great uncle is a friend of a friend of theirs, always offer to make the connection or at least let them know you will be sure to keep them in mind if you hear of anyone looking for their service or their skillset.
Networking is all about how you approach it. If you have it stuck in your mind that you absolutely hate networking and that it never works for you, well that’s your perception and what will become your reality. The truth is that it can seriously affect your business if you decide not to put yourself out there though. Instead, keep an open mind and have fun with it, even if you’re not a people person! Networking and getting to know people can actually be really fun and interesting and you truly never know who you will meet or who they will connect you to. The world relies on connections, be a strong one.
by Shannon Ferguson