Updated: Apr 13
I can honestly say that learning how to network is one of the most essential tools an individual can use to advance their professional and personal life. Not going to lie, in the beginning I absolutely hated networking because it simply wasn’t my strong suit. My challenge was figuring out how to subliminally pitch myself and my services to people without coming across as cocky or potentially just saying the wrong thing. If you’ve never done it before, networking can be an extremely intimidating endeavour.
The first step is practice. In addition to being more intentional about the networking settings I attended, before each event I would stand in front of the mirror at home for about 10 minutes and practice what I would want to say to people. The key is to practice so that you’re comfortable using applicable verbiage while also keeping it as a casual conversation so that people don’t feel like they’re being pitched to. Actively listening is a component that most individuals forget to incorporate into their networking conversations. Listening to understand as opposed to listening to respond separates you from the masses and is what will ultimately be a determining factor in the development of a potential business relationship.
It’s essential for you to develop real relationships with your contacts before you can expect them to bring you any business. Just like personal relationships, business relationships take time to develop, you have to be willing to invest in them. How do you develop a real networking relationship? If you happen to be blank, always remember that you can connect with people on a level other than business. People more often than not bond over overlapping areas of interest, no matter what they may be.
Once I became more comfortable with being a conversation pioneer, I began to diversify my network community. The last thing you want to do is have an insular network. Branching out from local networking is what put me in touch with people I never would have met had I not taken the time to welcome the unknown. Almost instantaneously, I began to get invited to a multitude of events all over the country that the masses didn’t have access to. I realized that I had to start being strategic when choosing the events that I would attend; it was imperative that the events were worth my time.
Not only did strategic networking boost my business to six figures but it also helped me build my confidence and begin speaking more often on panels and different platforms. Once you’ve mastered initiating conversations and potential business relationships, the next step is to maintain. You have to remember that you want to be the one people go to when they need something. Your network will be useless if you don’t maintain, meaning it’s essential for you to be consistently reaching out.
Written By: Treasa Leigh Brown