It’s back-to-school season and for many of us entrepreneurs, those school days are just a distant (although I won’t say just how distant!) memory. And, while there are some things from those days that are better left as memories (in my case, think teased hair and acid-washed jeans!), there are definitely some lessons from those school days that you should apply to your business networking. So, here are a few tips to help you go right to the head of the networking class:
Do your homework.
Back in school, if you didn’t do your homework, not only would you get an F, but it also left you at a disadvantage for understanding other lessons that built off of what the homework was about. The same is true for business networking. If you’re going to a live event, find out who is going to be there before you go. Do your homework to see who you would want to connect with and figure out commonalities that will help you build a relationship with them. Learn about the person to make sure that what you’re approaching them with is relevant, too.
Even if you’re connecting via social media or email- put in the extra effort to make sure that small details are accurate, like their name is spelled correctly (and that it’s actually the correct name!) and your contact information is correct. It may sound self-explanatory, but you’d be surprised at how many people fail to do their homework and thus, fail at networking.
Bring the teacher an apple.
We all know that the student that brings the teacher an apple becomes the teacher’s pet. This strategy applies in the business networking world, too. While I don’t recommend actually bringing fruit with you, kind gestures really make you memorable in the best possible way. Approach all networking situations from the mindset of how you can be genuinely helpful to others, without looking for anything in return.
And, if you’ve done your homework like recommended above, you should know some relevant details to determine what possible ways you can help. Whether it is introductions and meaningful connections you can make, an article that you read that they will benefit from or even a simple social media shout out, there are myriad ways to “bring an apple”.
Raise your hand.
Just like the teacher wouldn’t know if you needed help in class until you raised your hand, you have to do the same when networking. If others don’t know that you need help and more specifically, what you actually need help with, then they most likely won’t help. Spell it out clearly, so you make it as easy as possible for others to help you.
But, while it’s important to ask for help, make sure that you don’t lead with your ask. Nothing ensures a failing networking grade faster than asking someone that you just met (or never met!) to introduce you to their boss or interview you on TV. Build the relationship first and start small.
Follow these tips and you’ll get your networking diploma in no time!
Thanks to Hannah Tobin of Kingsgate Transportation, Max Robinson of KB Kitchen Fitters Glasgow, Adam Drake of Highland Investment Advisors, LLC and Marissa Russell of The High Achieving Woman for the inspiration behind some of these ideas.