Would you like better networking results?
A key result we seek from networking, as independent consultants, is the ability to generate leads.
And being able to generate leads is an essential skill for any consultant because it keeps their pipeline full.
As you know, the more leads you have in your pipeline, the more choices you create in opportunities and the more money you can make.
Unless you’re comfortable with unpredictable revenue, then, by all means, don’t network.
But if you want a successful independent consulting business, then I have some tips that may help.
In the past, I was awful at networking. I would struggle to know what events to show up to, or I would show up and not know what to say.
And in some cases, I would embarrass myself.
But like so many of my turn around stories, someone helped me.
As luck would have it, this particular leader took me to all the right events. She role modelled how to connect with other attendees.
And I realised there seemed to be a pattern to networking successfully.
“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”
Over time, I created a system that helped me go from embarrassing myself…
To become known as The Networking Queen. And improved my ‘luck’ with connecting with others.
But the system relies very heavily on 1 key factor. I had to take 6 steps – before attending the events. And I had to repeat these steps at regular times.
Each time I redo the process my networking results dramatically improve!
If you want to improve your networking abilities, then I would suggest following these 6 steps before you attend your next event:
Step #1: Answer the question, What is your goal for networking?
Why are you networking? Is it just something you know you should do?
There can be multiple reasons for attending events where you can connect with others.
Maybe you’re just looking for free food and drinks. That’s usually a bonus.
For myself, I don’t have a lot of time and energy to waste. Instead, I want to be purposeful.
So I focus on the long-term beneficial reasons, such as:
- Assess to what’s happening in my market
- Become more recognised by my peers and potential clients
- Share knowledge
- Learn about opportunities
You may have a different list of important reasons for you and your business.
Whatever your reasons, one or many, determine one to three priorities before proceeding.
Step #2: Answer the question, Who do you want to meet?
Ever wonder which events would be good for you to target?
There are many networking events out there, and probably like me, you have limited time.
The question, “Who do you want to meet?” helps us be more targeted. Connecting with others is about meeting other people who we can help or who can help us.
“There is no such thing as money problems. There are only relationship problems.”
To do this, I answer the following questions:
- Who do I need to meet to achieve my goal(s)?
- Why do I want to meet them?
- What do they tend to be interested in?
- Where do they tend to go/ hang out?
By answering these series of questions, I can narrow down the events that are of value, and I should target to attend.
Step #3: Answer the question, Why would they want to meet you?
So now you know why you are networking and where to show up.
However, successful networking entails an exchange of value.
“Everybody has a problem, and if you have a solution, you can meet and help people.”
– Judy Robinett
You need to bring something of value to the other person.
It could be as simple as providing a connection or information that is easy for you to give. Or it could more.
For example, I was an early adopter of LinkedIn and continue to be a substantial user of the social networking tool. I am also an advocator of personal branding, specialising and positioning. I would go as far as to say I am a practice leader.
As a result, information, tactics, approaches, tips, etc. on the topic of personal branding and using LinkedIn as a tool is relatively comfortable to me.
And I am happy to share my knowledge with others.
To help me determine what I had to offer, I started by asking myself:
- What can I provide, easily?
- What can I help with, efficiently?
- Would anyone in my network find what I can give or help with, valuable? Why?
Over time and with asking questions and listening to those I networked with, I have created several packets of information or services I am happy to share.
Step #4: Answer the question, Who are you?
Do you struggle with merely introducing yourself?
For a long time, I didn’t know what to say besides, “Hi, I’m Tanya.” There are so many facets of who I am, and I didn’t know where to start.
So, I started with the following simple questions:
- What are my skills/ capabilities and strengths?
- What are my passions?
When I answered these questions, I brainstormed as many ideas as I could. Then I zeroed in on my top three to five for each question.
From there I had a foundation to work from and moved to the next question.
Step #5: Answer the question, What is your expertise?
Are you often hired for a role and associated skills?
Maybe as a Project/ Program Manager? An Engineer? A Business Analyst, a strategist, a leadership coach?
These are very broad or horizontal roles.
The role you are hired for is not necessarily your expertise. Expertise is expert skill, knowledge, or judgement in a particular field. Where you have a deep or vertical familiarity and experience.
For example, often I am sought after as a Change Manager, a horizontal role.
But my expertise, or vertical depth, that get’s my client’s attention is, I have:
- Direct experience as an employed budget holding leader, making the difficult decisions and doing the hard change projects with my teams and processes.
- The ability for building or changing teams and establishing performance management systems with leaders for their teams.
- Direct experience as a project manager, running a project management office, and know how to deliver my services within a project construct.
I am often contracted by my clients when they are about to go into or are in a phase of turmoil due to transformation changes with people and process impacts.
And the transformation changes can include startups, business model changes, down/ rightsizing, acquisitions/ mergers, and divestitures.
But how did I clarify my expertise? I answered the following questions:
- What are my career attributes?
- What makes me stand out from my peers?
- What challenges have I faced and conquered in my career?
- What have I failed at and learned from?
To gain clarity, I have answered these questions, again and again.
The best time to answer them is at the end of each engagement, contract.
If you haven’t done it before, just anchor yourself to your last three engagements and then answer the questions above for each.
“Everything that you want to be, you already are, and you’re simply on the path of discovering it.”
– Alicia Keys
Step #6: Answer the question, How can you be memorable to those you meet?
I bet you remember particular people from networking events. And for those you favour, why do you?
How the other person looked at the event is likely one factor. It probably helped they offered to help you, or you volunteered to help them.
But for the memorable people, the ones that you are looking forward to meeting again, there was something more.
The ‘more’ was likely because they had stories or experiences they shared with you that anchored them in your mind, that resonated with you.
We can prepare to do this for ourselves.
Up to this point, we have reflected a lot about ourselves and our past. And along the way, re-familiarised ourselves with various experiences.
To help ourselves be more memorable, we need to take inventory of particular stories and experiences we have had. Then, be willing and able to share them and relate them to:
- how we want to be known,
- our expertise,
- our goals, and
- who we want to meet.
For myself, at some events, I want to meet leaders who are interested in my expertise. I am also looking for leaders who appreciate resiliency and a team player, who can have fun and laugh at themselves.
As a result, I am willing to share a story about how I embarrassed myself in front of an executive by falling on my ass, right in front of her desk, the first day I met her.
It was a ridiculous moment! Insert laugh track here.
And I continue the story of how she and I laughed about it as I picked my self up and kept going, sharing about a significant change I was responsible for, and I needed her assistance.
I won her over, and we worked together, persevering in what seemed like crazy and insurmountable situations, and delivered results while caring for our teams for multiple years.
To this day, we are still friends and help one another in our business endeavours.
Because of being willing to share stories that fit the conversation and audience I have gained:
- Like-minded people in my network, friends, introductions; and
- Opportunities where my skills, capabilities, approaches and personality are appreciated.
“It’s hard to create what you cannot articulate. Get clear on your desires.”
– Jill Koenig
Networking used to scare the crap out of me.
But with preparation and practice, reflection and refinement, it’s gotten easier over the years.
Even though I have been connecting with others for over 20 years, I still go through these questions to improve my abilities.
And each time I do, I discover a bit more about myself, my goals, and how I can achieve them.
If you found this article helpful, please share it with your community.
Thanks for reading!
Founder and President
Stand & Deliver Inc.