Making connections is a key part of professional life. From intern to business owner, you need to be filling up your contacts list from the off. Business networking is not something that people always enjoy, as it can be a little awkward and hard to get going.
Make a good first impression
Keep in mind who you’re looking to connect with. If you’ve turned up to a networking event and know who you need to speak to, that’s a fantastic start. When you make the first contact with them, tell them how much you enjoyed their most recent blog post, product, redesign – anything! If people know you’re following their successes online, and taking an interest in their business and/or life they’ll be keen to find out why. This is your in – you’ll have attracted their attention enough to make your case as to why you should connect.
Displaying relaxed, and even casual body language, shows the person you’re speaking with that you feel comfortable and familiar with them. If you display comfort, it’ll project to the other person, who will likely mimic it and, before you know it, your conversation will be flowing.
Pay attention to who you’re speaking to
Positivity is contagious, so enter social situations with some goals: speak to everyone that you set out to, but make sure you come across interested and focused on what they’re saying. Making an effort to really listen could lead to a conversation that would be beneficial to your business.
Paying attention may seem obvious, however, when meeting new people in business or your personal life, it’s surprising how many of us aren’t engaged. Worries of how your business might be performing, who just texted you or even if you might hit rush hour on the way home keep our minds thoroughly distracted. But don’t let it.
(Re)Connect on social media
LinkedIn is, of course, a great one to connect on, but also consider asking for personal accounts on platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. You’ll have a more one-to-one connection, away from colleagues on both sides, which should give you more opportunity to speak candidly. Simply sending a message on social media allows the other person time to consider the invite for coffee, or whatever it may be, which is less pressure than cold calling them.
For example, following a journalist and interacting with them on a personal level is a great way to build a relationship. If you’re after some media coverage, they’re far more likely to accept if the request comes from a friend rather than just a faceless email address. Remember that everyone’s human – don’t be afraid to put yourself out there, as the people you want to speak to will have already gone through the same thing.
Get to know their peers
Your referrals come from customers that know you and your business well. Getting to know the people that could refer your services to others is a free way of marketing your business, so it makes sense to get out there.
If you have someone in mind that you’d like to create a professional relationship with, see if you can meet some people from their professional ‘inner circle’. Are there any events their company are putting on? Is there a work anniversary you could send your congratulations for?
Keep up with connections you’ve already made. Sending the occasional message will keep the relationship going, so don’t feel overwhelmed by trying to remain firm friends with every single one.
When you’ve managed to get on the radar of people you’d like to know, you’re going to need to keep these connections going. As mentioned above, sending a message to them every so often to check in is a great plan as it’s a relaxed way of staying in touch. It is, however, often advised to meet in person as meetings will be shorter, engagement will be higher, and communication will be better understood.
Having an event to celebrate an achievement, will express your pride and passion for your business to others. Meeting in person is always best, and if you can inject some fun into the situation, that’s even better.