With a new year, comes new opportunities. January gives us the chance for a clean slate. One area to consider for this year is to be purposeful in building and maintaining your business connections. Networking can be an opportunity to gain new clients, to get a new job or on the flip side, help someone. Here are some tips for successful networking:
Strive to be known as a helpful resource.
I try to be a resource for my clients. Part of doing well is being clear on what I can and can’t offer. Do you want to start a mentor program? I can help you with that. Does your organization need leadership development training? I can do that too. But if you need help ushering through a major change initiative, I’ll refer you to my friend, April Callis Birchmeier.
Develop networking goals.
In coaching, we often encourage our clients to “set your intentions.” By this we mean to think through what outcome you’d like to achieve. Who do you want to meet? What do you want to learn? Set your intention before you walk into the room.
Networking is a two-way street. You should “ask” as much as you “tell.” Listen, really listen. This valuable coaching skill takes practice. So often when someone is speaking, we are thinking of our own response instead of truly listening. Try to listen longer. Make eye contact. Put away the phone! If you are curious and interested in others, you have a much better chance of making a fruitful connection.
Know your “story.”
Be prepared to talk about what you do and try to weave in an interesting story. People love stories and will have an easier time remembering you at a future event if they connect you to a memorable story.
Last year in the Leadership Lansing program, we had great networking success. This relatively new program of the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce attracted 35 participants in its first year. I co-facilitate this program with fellow coach, Ross Woodstock. In the program, we provide opportunities in each session for our participants to connect and network.
On one of our many field trips, two participants — Glenn Simon, vice president at Granger Construction and Patrick Maltby, COO of Dewpoint — got to talking about what they were working on at their companies. They ended up partnering on a bid for the new Ford Data Center. Happily, they won the bid and were awarded a contract to the tune of $70 million.Now there’s a case for the power of networking!
So, think about establishing some networking goals for yourself in 2017. Be genuine in your interactions and build trust in your networking conversations.