Networking is a powerful tool. Yet for most, the thought of inserting oneself into an already-established group of people immediately elicits clammy palms and anxiety-sweats.
To put this into perspective, I am the type of person that will talk to anyone, anywhere, at anytime. I’ve made sales in elevators, at dog parks, on airplanes and even in the bathroom at a nightclub, but ask me to go to a networking event and I’ll tell you that I’d rather watch ‘IT.’ Alone. In the dark. Oh, and I hate scary movies.
It wasn’t until recently that I forced myself to venture into the mysterious world of networking events. It turns out if you arm yourself with a few simple tools networking is not as terrifying as it’s made out to be. Not only is it not something to be feared, but it’s been the most significant ROI I’ve done for my book of business – and personal life, for that matter.
The case for face to face.
There’s a reason we all put ourselves through the “torture” of networking. It’s a force. Studies show that, for new prospects, in-person meetings are 85% more effective than virtual meetings (phone, video, chat, etc.), and this benefit holds true even for existing customers (65%).
Not only is meeting someone face to face more effective, but it affords you the opportunity to build your personal brand. People don’t buy from companies – they buy from people. And the stronger your professional relationships, the more likely you are to benefit from word-of-mouth marketing. In a Nielsen study, 92% of consumers trusted suggestions from friends and family over other advertising.
By tapping into the ‘human factor,’ networking increases our ability to build effective, long-lasting relationships. In so doing, you are able to further expand your sphere of influence and increase your number of connections. When this is done correctly it more often than not leads to an increase in sales and opportunity. Remember: 70% of jobs are found through personal relationships.
Expanding your professional circle.
A recent afternoon spent listening to Tanya Menon’s TED talk ‘The secret to great opportunities? The person you haven’t met yet’ has pushed me to consider the intricacies of human relationships. Specifically, Menon’s discussion puts pressure on the innate desire to remain in the same social networks, often for life.
We are usually friends with people who look like us, think like us and believe the same things we do. And there’s nothing inherently wrong with this. But when we need new ideas, jobs, or inspiration we have to seek these objectives from outside our comfort zones. As Tanya Menon explains, “our network is redundant, but our weak ties are our ticket to a whole new social world. We have this amazing ticket to travel our social world, but we don’t use it that well.”
There’s a reason all good business books advise against homogeneous team-building. To get the most out of a team, to generate the most innovative ideas and the most productive discussions, it’s necessary to bring together a variety of diverse perspectives and experiences, all of which inform and challenge one another. The same can be said when building your personal network of connections.
New opportunities don’t come from the people you already know.
How networking will transform your perspective.
Exposing yourself to people who are different – socially, economically, racially, politically, and the list goes on – benefits you in more ways than you might initially consider. It teaches you to be innovative, forces you to consider and prepare for different viewpoints, and it brings about an understanding of new ideas, opinions, and perspectives.
Compound all of these attributes, and you’re left with a person who is socially aware, considerate, empathetic and is better equipped to sell a service or product. Because of this exposure, you’ll be more knowledgeable about others and better able to see the world from a different point of view. The more you can walk in another’s shoes, the better you’ll be equipped to find solutions to their problems – even those that haven’t yet been exposed.
And to think – you’re able to gain all of this insight and self-growth just from attending a networking event. What’s next? World Peace?
There’s one strategy that has carried over from my ability to connect with others in a one-on-one setting, and that is the fact that I believe that everyone’s story is fascinating. I operate under the assumption that I have something to learn from each person I encounter. Sometimes it’s the simplest of things, other times it’s lessons that have impacted my life on a day-to-day basis, and other times I learn things not to do.
If you can adopt this mindset going into a networking event and make it your goal to learn about every person you meet, it’ll open doors you never knew existed. Check in next week for Part II: The Definitive Guide to Networking.
About the author:
As an Account Executive at Proven Recruiting, Megan is responsible for building long-lasting, trust-based partnerships with growing companies.
With nearly ten years of business development experience in recruiting, Megan is an expert in sales and strategic partnerships. Specifically, her experience has afforded her a unique insight into client relationships and the value of networking.
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