As a business owner, founder or someone exploring the idea of entering the entrepreneur space, networking is a crucial part of building your business in the early stages.
From LinkedIn to the numerous startup and SME events in every city in Southeast Asia, connecting with the right people is an important aspect of business. But here’s why you might be doing it all wrong.
There is a misconception that going out into the wild and speaking to as many people as possible is the best way to build your business. However, is that an efficient use of your resources such as your time. I remember being told by a manager when I was a junior executive that judging success at a networking event is based on the number of name cards that you bring back. That advice, thankfully, never really took, so I was able to be smarter about things.
Here’s how you can ‘elevate’ your elevator pitch
Here’s how you can improve your networking chops.
Be strategic and know your targets
The first thing you need to do is know who you should be talking to at any networking event. If your mentality is that you should be out there meeting as many people as possible, it will snowball into useless meetings, confused talks, long-drawn-out conversation that are unlikely to result in any business.
Be thoughtful about who at the event and then visualise the best way to connect with these people. You should ideally be spending your time focusing on these relationships and building them. Also, be deliberate about what organizations and events you attend to help you connect with potential contacts.
Provide value to others
There is a mindset that networking is mostly self-serving. And when we believe that any attempt to establish relationships is only for our benefit, we are less inclined to pursue these conversations.
It’s all about me and I’m uncomfortable with that
A strong and active network is actually built on mutually beneficial relationships. In the process of getting to know someone, you understand how you can add value and help them, and they are then willing to help you.
So what can you possibly offer more experienced and accomplished entrepreneurs or people at your early stage? This isn’t scientific but takes advantage of standard human behaviour.
This doesn’t mean whispering sweet nothings into everyone’s ear at the networking session, but showing appreciation and acknowledgement for the work that they’ve done or highlighting how their accomplishments have actually helped you.
Using social media to tweet or share a LinkedIn post is a great way to introduce yourself to someone and create a relationship even if you cannot meet them in person.
Important things that every entrepreneur should know
Building a network takes time
From wanting immediate results to not being able to schedule time, your impatience can be your biggest downfall.
There are many excuses, such as “I can’t go for networking sessions because I’m too busy with work” or “I’ve got a family and don’t have the time to attend a session after hours”. There are lunches you can organise, quick catchups over coffee, LinkedIn groups or messages you can connect to. All of these take time to set up and then once you make the connection you have to build a business relationship just like any other.
Relationships take a long time to build (years) and they also require work. Asking someone for a favour 5 minutes after meeting them or after 5 years when you reconnect on social media, isn’t the best way to guarantee results. Create a network that suits your needs, add value to the network and maintain regular contact. In doing so, you stay relevant and keep people engaged throughout, which means you have the opportunity to use the network for your benefit in the long term.