No one really enjoys networking, but it is something we all need to do to grow our businesses. One reason we dislike it, is the way we tend to approach it – as a contest to see who can distribute the most business cards. Our speaker, Jeff Tippett, described a networking event such as this that he attended. When he arrived, a bit late, he felt like a fresh piece of meat, as people swarmed to him business cards in hand.
If that sounds like any (or every) networking event you have attended, then it’s time to change the way you think about networking. Jeff Tippett, Outreach Strategist at Calvert Creative, has a different approach to networking, which he shared with us at this month’s Lunch & Learn, held at Sitti in downtown Raleigh.
Jeff’s approach is all about building relationships. He advises starting a conversation with someone with the intent to find out what their needs are. Ask what problems or challenges they have. If you view networking as approaching individuals in order to find out how you can make their life or business better, the pressure to sell yourself or your business diminishes. As creatives, we can offer solutions to problems, so we are not selling our services, we are helping deliver a solution. And when you are able to offer advice or solutions to someone you will be seen as an expert. As Jeff put it, it’s not who you know, it’s who is glad they know you. So we need to show people that they will be glad they know us.
Inevitably you will come across someone who wants to sell, sell, sell themselves rather than carry on a conversation with you? So what do you do in that situation, I asked. Jeff advises to find a polite way to leave the conversation and look for someone else to start a conversation with. Always leave the conversation in a graceful way, as to not burn any bridges.
Once you establish a relationship with someone, you need to maintain it. Social media is a good way to keep in touch with your connections. It’s more frequent than face-to-face meetings, but be sure to make time for those face-to-face meetings. You need to be available to people and make time for them when they reach out to you.
To make connections you need to be willing to put yourself out there. When you do Jeff offers this advice:
- Don’t try to hard, give people space and allow things to happen organically.
- Be sure your networking efforts and the connections you are making are inline with your business goals.
- It’s okay to say no sometimes.
One last piece of advice from Jeff’s presentation is to build and maintain the relationships you already have. The people who know you and already trust you, are your most important connections.
Connect with Jeff on twitter @JeffTippett.