The Real Secret to Successful Networking

networking introduction

Attending conferences and going to local meet-ups is a great way to meet new people, but it isn’t a good way to get to know someone. If you really want to be successful at networking you have to follow these steps:

Put your feelers out there

Every time you attend an event, you’ll notice that there are a few networking whores in the room who hand out business cards to every single person they see. They usually get to know thousands of people, but when it is time to call in a favor or ask for help, no one steps up to the plate because they haven’t built any personal relationships.

The goal with networking is to build personal relationships and you don’t do this by being a whore. The next time you attend an event and are looking to network, here are a few things you can do:

  1. Look for the most popular groups in the room. These groups are popular because they are made up of the “it” crowd. These are the type of people you want to be associated with for obvious reasons.
  2. Once you have found the popular groups, look to see what individuals make up those groups. You don’t want to cut into a group and try to join the conversation because it will create an awkward moment. Instead you want to wait till one of those individuals leaves the group for a moment (to get food, get a drink, go to the bathroom) and start to get to know them.
  3. After you start getting to know a few people in the “it” crowd, you can then join the group they are in. This way, there won’t be an awkward moment because you’ll know a few people in the group.
  4. When the conversation starts dying down, you want to get people’s contact information. You can either do this in a casual fashion by trading phone numbers or by trading business cards.

Start following up

Within 24 hours of meeting someone in person, you want to follow up with them. If you don’t, they might forget who you are. The easiest way you can do this is by sending an email like this:

Hey John,

It was great meeting you at the Seattle 2.0 Awards. We should meet-up for lunch or drinks next week. Let me know when you are free.

By the way, I noticed that your company provides design services for small online businesses; I know a few people that could be interested in your services. Let me know if you would like an introduction.

Thanks
Neil

If you read the email above, you’ll notice that I did was two things:

  • The first was to give a few options on meeting up
  • And the second was to offer to help them out

By doing both of those things your chances of getting a person to follow up with you will be higher. If you just invite someone for lunch or drinks, they may not respond. But if you do something for them, they’ll feel obligated to respond.

Setup a meeting

Once you get someone agree to meet-up with you there are a few etiquette rules that you have to follow:

  1. Pick a meeting location that is convenient for the other party, and not just you. If you are the one who wants the meeting, why should they have to come to you? You should be the one driving to them.
  2. Don’t be late to the meeting! I don’t care if there is traffic or if you have some family issues, always be on time for a meeting you setup. And if you tend to be late to meetings, it is better to be extra early than late. If the person you are meeting happens to be late, that’s fine, you just can’t be late.
  3. When it comes time to pay the bill, you have to be the one paying. Don’t wait too long before you throw your credit card down, and if the other persons offers to pay, tell them that they can pay next time. The worst things you can do in this situation is split the bill in half or take time to throw your credit card down because it makes it seem like you don’t want to pay.

Build a personal relationship

Meetings don’t have to about work. Talking about money or business all the time gets boring. If you want to successful at networking you have to build personal relationships and not just business relationships. You can do this by talking about general topics such as sports, family, or anything you think may interest the other person.

When chit chatting, pay close attention to their body language. If you are feel the other person is getting bored, change the topic. You want to talk about stuff that you both find interesting.

Conclusion

Once you finish your first meeting you’ll notice that you are building a friendship and not just a business relationship. This is the secret with networking because if a friend asks you for something, you are more likely to do something for them compared to if a business colleague asked you for something.

And lastly, you’ll want to have many more meetings with the same person. You never build great friendships over one meeting you build friendships over years. So don’t expect your networking to pay off within a few weeks or months, it can take years before you see a ROI.