If you are an entrepreneur, business advisor, or investor, you either know, or have been beat over the head on the value of networking. Whether you’re trying to grow your company, raise capital, or seek out deal flow, we know the first place to begin is your professional network. However, building a strong network of professionals takes time and requires strategy. Here are five strategies on how to network effectively:
#1: Understand your needs, and be able to articulate them concisely
When you meet new professionals at networking events or meetings, it’s usually understood that everyone is there to grow their network and help one another out professionally. With that said, it’s important to walk into events knowing what your highest business needs are, and how to articulate them.
If you’re a corporate lawyer or legal advisor, your biggest need might be connecting with a firm you’d like to target as a client. If you’re an entrepreneur ready to take your business to the next level, you might be seeking out venture capitalists, investors, or advisors. When professionals ask why you’re attending the event or how they might be able to help you, know exactly how to answer. This will not only show your new connections that you’re focused, but it will also allow you to get the most out of every conversation you have.
#2: Connect virtually, immediately
When you’re at a large conference or event, it’s easy to collect hundreds of business cards, but difficult to remember the significance of each one. Although you should always have business cards ready, a good strategy is to immediately connect with the person online. This can be via Linkedin, Telegram, or email, however, it’s easiest if you limit it to one platform.
For instance, when you wrap up a conversation with a new connection, pull out your phone and ask them to find themselves on Linkedin. Then, add them with a message like “Great to meet you at ____ event and discussion a potential business opportunity regarding _______.” That way, you both have an electronic record of where you met and what you discussed.
#3: Spend your time wisely
Although it may be tempting to spend all your time with the first person you meet at a networking event, it’s important to use your time wisely. Make each introduction between 3-5 minutes long ensuring you close the conversation with a virtual connection. Once you’ve met everyone in the room, you can always return back to those individuals you feel you should have further discussion with. Depending on the size of the event and the amount of people, you will have to use your judgement as to how in depth each conversation goes.
However, I’ve found that when you’re just starting out, it’s best to show up early, meet everyone in the room, and be the last one to leave. Once you’ve substantially grown your network, hustling to get to know everyone becomes less of a priority, and you can focus on your most important connections.
#4: Follow up to ensure the relationship continues
Especially in the case in which an investment, business deal, or partnership was discussed, it’s important to follow up with new connections. Of course, you’re going to want to set up another meeting with an agenda mutually agreed upon. However, even if the connection was open-ended, it’s still important to follow up a few days later. You never know who may become your advisor, a client, or lead for business in the future.
Networking is one of the most important aspects for your professional development and business growth. Your future self and business will thank you for growing your network early on in your ventures.