It's an exciting time. New company, great prospects, money invested, lawyers signed off the paperwork. Money transferred. What now? Start adding value to the company. It's fun meeting people, promoting the product/service. More customers. More income. Break even. Sell the company, lots of money for everyone. That's the picture Business Angels buy into. But is it the reality? What's the impact if you are not focusing on the exit from day zero?
For some people networking seems to come very easily. They enter a room and start talking to people and walk out with a bunch of useful embryonic relationships. Why? Over a period of time they have learnt how to network and they improve their performance each time they go to any event – wedding, pub, supermarket, etc. You know some people who are good at this personally and read about them all the time in the media: Tony Abott, Bill Shorten, Sir Richard Branson, Nelson Mandela, Warren Buffett to name a few.
To be brilliant you only need to be 50% as good as them, so start with some simple principles and work on improving one thing each time. To get you started, here are six ideas to start with.
- Prepare for the event. Find out if there are people you want to see. Have something to say for twenty seconds which describes why the person in front of your should talk to you. Think of some uncommon questions to ask. For example, asking “What is the best thing that happened to you today?” can change the flavor of the conversation. Networking is all about building relationships which means knowing more than just the business of someone else so be prepared to talk about other subjects (but be careful not to rant)!
- Research the events to attend. Decide which events are worth attending – generally paid are better than free. Be positive. Dress well.
- Take material to give people – Business Cards are enough. While I’m thinking about it, make your Business Card easy to use. Leave space (on the back perhaps) for people to write on and choose something that everyone can write on. How else will people remember what you asked them to do for you?
- Find out how you can help them and do so (perhaps write it on the back of their Business Card). Be attentive and focused (i.e. don’t answer your phone, check the time, look over their shoulder, etc.)
- Send thank you note. If they help you, acknowledge them in your social media.
- Keep good records. Identify benefit of the contact to you and rate them so you can decide how often to contact them later. A simple rating system may be: Introducer, Might be helpful, Unlikely to be helpful, Dangerous. Follow up with an invite to coffee or simply send a reminder email.
So there you have it… let me know how your networking goes when you try this!