The most common excuse I hear from would-be entrepreneurs for not starting their own business is that they don’t have the connections to get it off the ground. That’s quite a pathetic excuse when you think about it. Basically, what that translates to is they haven’t put in the effort to get to know the people who matter in their prospective industry. They haven’t even tried to find a mentor…
You want to be a successful entrepreneur? Create collisions. Get out and meet other entrepreneurs and potential partners who can help you, both personally and professionally. Build relationships, daily.
I find the word NETWORKING very cheesy. It evokes painful memories of going to networking events – events as awkward and as forced as a 7th grade dance.
Truth is, you don’t break through the important circles by going to these so-called networking events. You meet people like you at these networking events. In other words, people looking to break through, very few who have actually made it to the big stage. And very few who can help you.
My disdain for the word aside, here are…
3 Proven Ways to Become a Great Networker (without being cheesy)
Start a blog about the industry you want to enter
This forces you to learn about the industry inside out, and it gives you tremendous exposure to the right people. Professionals stay on top of industry trends by reading industry news/blogs – which can begin with something as simple as a Google search…
Commit to consistently write about the industry you want to enter (a minimum of 3 blogs per week), which I presume you already know a lot about, properly optimize your blog (SEO, opt-in forms etc.), and you’ll be pleasantly shocked at how much attention and dialogue will take place with your readers. It’s amazing who will stumble onto your blog. I know this from direct experience. I’ve generated millions in revenue from this very method – industry leaders stumbling upon one of my sites, liking what they read, and reaching out to me. And they’ve come from all over North America.
Remember, industry people know industry people. When one industry professional discovers your blog and likes what she reads, she’ll probably forward it around the office and among her colleagues who are also in the industry you want to penetrate. All of a sudden you are viewed as a quasi-authority among industry participants.
Properly optimize your blog so you can capture email addresses efficiently, and from there let the networking begin. Send out a weekly newsletter to remind your readers that you are on top of industry trends, thus building on your authority status.
One caveat: Edit your content like a mad man. Become a great writer. There’s nothing worse in the online marketing business than a poorly edited blog – it’s a credibility killer, no matter how great your ideas may be.
Be interesting – have stories to tell
Sounds generic, but it’s not. Most people are boring. They have very few hobbies other than working out and watching TV. If you want to network, you need to have lived, and have stories to tell. In other words, if you actually get the attention of the person you think could help develop or fund your business, how do you keep them interested enough to get that follow up meeting? How do you keep them from forgetting your name in two hours?
It’s not going to happen just by giving your elevator pitch. VCs and angels invest in people – entrepreneurial people with work ethic and life experience (perspective and discipline).
So, what makes someone interesting? What makes their story connect with people on a human, not just business, level? Adventures, hobbies, family etc. Finding a way to tell the key person a little bit about yourself is soooo important. When you speak, they are trying to vet you. Someone who just talks code to them isn’t really differentiating themselves from the thousands of other programmers with an app. Your personal traits and experiences will differentiate you…
Not only that, but if you share a common interest/hobby (hiking, golf, racquetball, shooting, mountain biking etc.), invite that person to join you in said activity and build real, and lasting, rapport. Why do you think so many deals are struck on the golf course?
Playing sports together, for example, encourages camaraderie and allows us to let down our guard a bit. Humans, after all, are very tribal, or communal. We all like being a part of a team or joint mission.
Learn to love rejection
If you’re a single guy/gal, go to the local bar this weekend and hit on the hottest person you can find (provided they aren’t already with someone :). It’s a win win. If you succeed in picking that hottie up, good times – and it’ll be a great confidence boost. If you don’t, you’ll start the process of desensitizing yourself to rejection – which is one of the most important components of being a successful entrepreneur and great networker.
There’s no room for shy people in the world of great networkers. Being shy is being self-absorbed. Shy people worry too much about what people think of them. You can’t be that way. Rejection is a lesson, nothing more. The moment you are rejected, you know exactly where you went wrong. Memory bank that for the next time and don’t repeat.
Rejection makes you better. Adopt that mindset and you’ll find yourself in potentially great networking opportunities every week. Mindset matters.
Give before asking, always. And never ask for favors. You build a strong reputation by helping others, also known as providing value; never forget that. Help someone in a position that can help grow your business and you’re on the right track to become a great networker. But before I sign off, let’s stop using the word ‘networking’ and simply refer to it as creating lasting relationships…