4 Steps to Improving Your Networking Results
In the early days of my business, I created a SWOT analysis for Chrissy Rose Photography. I did the exercise because that’s what I’d been told to include in a business plan. A SWOT analysis is kind of old school these days, but essentially evaluates your (S)trengths, (W)eaknesses, (O)pportunities and (T)hreats.
The longest part of my list was weaknesses—of course. This was my first time starting a business. I was full of doubt and imposter syndrome.
However, I identified three important strengths. Visually, my SWOT chart was pretty sad. But my shortlist of strengths carried a great deal of value. The list identified assets that not only served me well but gave me a lot of what I needed to start Chrissy Rose Photography. They helped me overcome most of my weaknesses, pursue my list of opportunities and avoid any threats of failure.
My three strengths were:
1. Passion for photography
2. I can make friends anywhere
3. Willingness to learn
What I realize now is that my strongest trait is networking with a purpose. I was never afraid to walk into a room full of strangers and strike up a conversation. And since I had a passion for my business and was willing to learn, I was approachable, confident and engaging.
Any business leader needs to be a rock star networker (even if you’re introverted).
Networking is how you will secure funding. It’s likely that it’s how you’ll find your best employees. And it’s obviously how you’ll find customers and clients. In other words, networking is how you build a business.
But yes, I get it... Professional networking makes most of us feel vulnerable and nervous. It can be very uncomfortable to put yourself out there. Rejection is a scary thing, y'all! The little gremlin voices that creep in tell you "I'm not smart enough—no one will take me seriously—who do I think I am..."
Don't believe those voices! They are wrong.
Here is what you need to remember (repeat it as a mantra if you need to): People are people!!!
Each attendee is probably thinking the same thing you are. And 9 times out of 10 they genuinely want to know more about you and your business—because why else would they attend a networking event in the first place? They need and want to expand their network too. They are in just as vulnerable of a position.
So, before you head into your next networking event, review these four tips. They’ve helped me grow my business from an idea into something larger and more exciting than I ever imagined.
Whenever I attend an event where I might meet people in my industry or potential clients, I have my "elevator pitch" or "key message" ready to go. It’s just a sentence or two about who I am and what I do. No one will ask you the tough questions in a networking atmosphere—because it isn’t a funding ask. You just have to share in general terms about your business. Basically, you have to gain their initial interest and start a two-way conversation.
2. Explain your end result.
It’s important to be clear about what you do and the impact your work has. You'll be asked, “What do you do?” a lot at networking events. DO NOT RELY ON YOUR OFFICIAL TITLE. Your title doesn’t mean anything to anyone. Your description of what you do will be far more memorable and understandable if you describe your purpose or how your work makes people feel. Here’s how I answer the question of what I do:
"I help women look and feel like a sexy goddess. Through photography, I help women reclaim their confidence and recognize their beauty." That usually does the trick and gets them asking for more information.
To help yourself get specific, think about the outcome you create. Is it making people’s lives easier with a product you create? Is it uplifting someone’s day with beautiful artwork? Think about the impact you make, and weave that into your response about “what you do.” Trust me, people will latch onto that and ask you more questions! Which is the whole purpose of networking: to start a conversation and make a connection.
3. Set a networking goal for each event.
If I‘m going to invest my time, money and energy into attending a function, you better believe I’m going to leave accomplishing something. My goals are always to make a connection with a certain number of new people. If there’s a speaker that I find interesting, he or she is on my priority list. A goal pushes us to work harder at something. Even if your goal is to connect with three potential clients, writing down that objective will help you make that happen.
4. Follow up and connect outside of the event.
When you add the event to your calendar, be sure to also schedule a time to follow up with your new friends after the event. Follow-through is crucial. You’ll stand out, too, because most people don’t do anything after a networking event and they lose the connections they made. You can make a difference for your business by being the one to follow-up. This can be in the form of an email, Instagram DM or Linkedin. Be sure to also friend, follow and like their professional social media pages.
Make sure your follow-up is personalized based on the conversation you had. It’s ideal to do a follow-up within 48 hours of the event, so everything is fresh in your mind. I often share a link to an article or book I was talking about. Don't force this interaction because it will show. Enter into it as just a friendly gesture between professionals. The idea is to make another point of contact for which he or she will likely respond and then you can respond with an invitation to meet for coffee and talk about how you might be able to help out their business.
Have any networking tips that have helped you succeed? I’d love to hear from you! Send me an email with your pro tip!