You probably know you need to network, and the primary reason you are willing to do so is to grow your business. Yet there’s a difference between just going to events and high-value networking. Done well, networking gets you exposure, helps you find potential clients and customers, and opens possible joint ventures and deals. If you aren’t doing high-value networking, you could end up collecting business cards and taking time from your business for no return. Some ways to make sure you’re doing high-value networking and not wasting your time are:
Research events before you commit to attending.
The internet and social media are your best tools here. Don’t waste time at events where you are not likely to run into the right customers or colleagues.
Use your higher-level listening skills.
Don’t be satisfied with an exchange of business cards. Find out the burning issues that are top-of-mind for people. Ask questions about what people are doing and why.
Aim for the one-on-one follow-up meeting.
Perhaps you can close a deal in a crowded room, but most of us cannot. Getting a meeting after the event gives you a chance to build a closer relationship and discuss your business in a relaxed manner.
The other mark of high-value networking is that it helps you to grow as a person. You can do this in part by connecting with people who share your values. Business does not happen inside a vacuum. We run our businesses from our core values—using our moral compass as a guide. High-value networking helps you to meet and potentially collaborate with people who are committed to the same ideals. Whether it’s a desire to mentor minority youth or to create sustainable businesses, networking can put you in touch with people who can help you move forward in areas beyond simple sales.
Of course, the other side of personal growth is learning from those who are not like you. Make an effort to attend events with diverse attendees. An open world invites new ideas and makes you a better entrepreneur and person.