Learn how to stand out in the networking crowd.
Common networking practices usually involve small talk, handshakes, and business cards. Many people use these same techniques over and over again hoping to create a connection that will change their career. But even if you meet the right connection, it would be difficult for that person to remember you if you're doing what everyone else is doing. You need to separate yourself from the pack to increase your chances of networking success.
Here are five ways to stand out in the networking process that will help you build lasting relationships.
1. Position yourself as an expert
Before you even start networking, position yourself as someone worth knowing. If you go out meeting people and don't have a notable background, you might get lost in the sea of names and faces. Or worse, many people may just ignore you, labeling you as one of those networkers who is looking to get something in return. You may not get any attention if people think that you have nothing valuable to offer.
However, if you position yourself as an expert, people tend to immediately attach value to your name. They are happy to meet you because they think you may offer value now or in the future. Even better, some might intentionally seek to connect with you, adding more social proof.
If you have no idea how to position yourself as an expert, consider running a blog. Write articles and tip lists about trending topics in your area of expertise. Visit Buzzsumo to find the hottest topics in your industry, and you can come up with a list of article ideas that may even have the potential to go viral. This will help skyrocket your efforts to become an expert and a thought leader in your industry.
2. Share what you do
As you grow your influence by sharing your expertise online, you can take it a step further by sharing what you do offline. With many relying on their job title to impress others at networking events, you'll stand out by briefly describing what you do and how it makes an impact in other people's lives. Spark interest in yourself and what you do by creating a 30-second elevator pitch that's focused on the following:
What's the problem that you're trying to solve?
How are you solving the problem?
What are the results so far?
Here's an example:
We found that almost half of all small businesses have no website, and one of the primary reasons is because they lack the technical skill. That's where we come in. We share articles and videos online to help entrepreneurs learn how to build their own websites, and we've been getting a lot of positive feedback. Many small businesses owners have told us that they've created more jobs and have done more to the local economy because they've grown their business online.
You are more likely to captivate the interest of other people by talking about how you're helping others instead of dishing out fancy professional titles. More importantly, you may be able to open up new doors that can help expand your business. Be prepared to capitalize on these opportunities with a business card that mentions your custom email address. Having a custom email address not only reinforces your reputation as an expert in your field but it also makes it easy for people to remember how to contact you.
Related: Yes, Business Cards Still Matter. Here's How to Craft Good Ones
3. Find a mentor
With a blog and a personal brand, you have some social proof which could make you noticeable in professional events. You could leverage it to get to know all the people in the room (which everyone else is probably doing), or you can use it to find a mentor.
93 percent of small and medium business owners understand that mentoring can help them succeed. Mentors bring a wealth of experience in their industry, and more importantly, they are very well-connected. They can help you stand out from the crowd as mentors have managed to build trusting relationships with key people in their areas of expertise. Getting a mentor to vouch for you can open so many doors that can take your business or career to the next level.
Once you find a mentor, you can connect to that person by:
Finding a mutual connection who can make an introduction.
Writing a short email to introduce yourself. Mention your blog to show social proof so you come across as a peer. End the email with a note that you're happy to connect and that you wish to keep in touch.
Mentors are busy, so don't take it personally if they don't respond immediately.
4. Add value in the networking process
Many people who network either sell themselves or look to extract value from someone else. They do these because self-interest is their number one goal. You might get a favor or two from your relationships with this mindset, but it would be very difficult for you to build lasting professional relationships.
Instead, look to add value in all of your networking endeavors. Come in with the mindset of how you can help the people you speak with. There are few ways you can do this:
Refer someone who can help solve their problem or elevate their business.
Introduce someone you know who is in the same field to help both parties widen their networks.
Share your expertise if you think it can help the person.
Listen to find ways you can use your blog or network to create mutually beneficial relationships
It is easier to establish rapport if you seek to add value to people's lives. The more value you add, the more likely they'll return the favor.
5. Befriend the assistant
As you connect with more people, you will find that those who have the most influence often have assistants who look after their emails, phone calls, and schedules. While others might see this as another obstacle, consider looking at it as an opportunity to get one step closer to the person. Think about it: If you befriend the assistant, you get one foot in the door.
WhoRespresents is a website that offers the contact details of influential people along with their assistants. Use the subscription-based service to contact assistants of people who you wish to connect with. Once you build relationships with assistants, you can ask them to do you a favor in connecting you to their bosses.
While others are busy shaking hands and handing out business cards, use your energy and resources to invest in approaches that help you separate yourself from everyone else. Strategies such as positioning yourself as an expert, sharing what you do, finding a mentor, looking to add value, and befriending assistants are all strategies that can help you stand out in the networking process. These steps can help you create meaningful connections that can take your business or career to the next level.
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