Networking tips

18 Jul 2012

It was interesting to see Mitt Romney’s Campaign team “requesting donations” of $50,000 to attend a fund raising function Romney was attending. The event raised $4 million for his election campaign funds, with Barack Obama also organising similar events. It does pose the question what possesses people to part with $50,000 just to attend dinner; is it purely an opportunity to have a great dinner or is it to demonstrate political support or a chance to rub shoulders with a President or Presidential candidate? 

Romney InvitationIt might well be all of the above, but it is likely that the major driver is the opportunity to network with some of the major players who share a similar outlook on life and business.

Having bought a seat at such a table it is important to have the networking skills to take advantage of the situation, otherwise, there is little point in investing $50,000.

Here are five tips which potential donors may want to consider when entering the arena to help them derive benefit from the evening with the Governor.

1) Network with the intention of helping other people, not yourself. People enjoy doing business with those that they trust and like. The only way to build that trust is to engage with others in a helpful way. Trust can take a long time to build, but insincerity takes even longer to overcome. It’s far more important to understand their needs before you tell them about your needs. Your goals should not be on the forefront of your mind. You’re trying to develop a relationship with someone, which means you should be thinking about them. It’s your job to understand the people in your network, where they are coming from, and what’s important to them.

2) Networking is more about listening to what people say than saying the right things.Take the time to listen to peoples ‘stories. You can only provide something of value to them if you listen to who they are and what they do. Don’t leave networking to chance. Take some time and define what you are looking for in your network. Every once in a while you’ll stumble across someone amazing by accident, but it’s a lot easier to find who you’re looking for if you know who they are in the first place. Be proactive and create a list of people who you want to contact on purpose.

3) Sometimes the best networking opportunities involve real work. Volunteer for events, committees, or projects that will have interesting people at them, or better, working for them. Working on a project or task with someone is one of the best ways to develop a relationship. For example, volunteering for a non–profit organisation can be a great way to get to know their influential board members.

4) Email is easy to send … and ignore. Yes, email is quick, simple, and can be sent to anyone, anywhere. It’s also very easy to be filtered out and ignored. If you really want to meet someone, then don’t be afraid to pick up the phone, or arrange a face-to-face meeting. These communication channels are more personal, which means that your message will be more memorable. Email can be a great tool, but don’t be afraid to use the traditional methods of actually talking to real people.

5) Make it a point to follow up. One or two days after meeting someone for the first time, follow up with a brief phone call, email or note. This is an opportunity to develop the relationship by bringing up a topic that you discussed before or making a comment on an interesting topic. Following up with relevant conversation helps to anchor your previous interaction in their mind and displays more personality than just sending a message that says, “Thanks for talking!”

Many people find networking uncomfortable, but it is a lot easier than you might think. The more questions you ask the happier people will be to talk to you. Everyone enjoys having someone listen to them so all you need to do is ask plenty of open questions!

Which networking tips do you have to share that have worked for you?