A strong and dynamic network is the secret of many successful companies. Whether it is an enterprise, a mid-sized company or a startup, an extensive network assists with recruiting, client acquisition and – in the best case – funding.
One is not born as a networker; instead it is more some sort of an inner attitude, which enables a person to forge numerous new contacts. If you lack the attitude, you don’t have to be worried, like most other business-skills, you just need the right strategy and insides. Take the following tips by heart and harvest the advantages of an efficient business network:
1. Don’t let extraverts intimidate you
Extraverts go to an event and comeback with a stack of business cards and 3 coffee chats scheduled for next week. Don’t let them intimidate you. It is okay you only made one contact.
2. Showing your face matters
When you go to events and could not speak with anyone, you may feel like going to events are time consuming, torturous, and useless. But remember, showing your face matters. Just give yourself these simple goals and feel good about it.
3. Choose your game
There are gazillions of startup related events happening everyday all over Europe. You can’t attend them all – impossible. Only choose the ones you are really interested in. If you are a business person, don’t auto-mute technical events. For example, if you are interested in the Analytics space, you might want to attend Data Science meetup. Yes, the majority of attendees will be developers. Yes, you will be likely to see a slide with lines of code that you can’t understand; but there is much more you can gain. Even simply knowing those technology exist gives you a better understanding of the market. If someone asks you “why are you here?” just tell them “I am interested in this subject and simply want to educate myself”. As easy as pie!
4. Talk to one person
Yes, just talk to one person. That could be a stranger who was sitting next to you or someone you know from some other event. Just talk to one person. That is 100% growth than your typical weeknight when you speak to…well, no one.
5. Say “thank you” to organizers / speakers
Organizing an event is hard. As part of “showing your face”, just tell them “Thank you for organizing this, I really enjoyed it.”, people like to hear that. Same for speakers, just tell them “Just wanted to say Hi, I enjoyed your presentation.” Most event organizers and speakers are extroverts (that’s why they do events), they are more likely to ask you “what do you do?” or “how do you know about this event?”. Let them lead the conversation.
6. Pre-event email — when you really want to connect
If there is someone at the event you really want to speak to, reach out to them before the event. It is important you do this before not after (his/her inbox will probably be flooded after an event and they won’t remember who you are). First, just tell them you are looking forward to meeting him/her. Then, maybe you include a question you wanted to ask, or some thoughts about recent news that they blogged/tweeted about. Make sure to send an authentic and personal message. Last thing people want is another automated message.
You have pushed yourself to meet new people in person, don’t let that relationship disappear. Think yourself as a farmer, you have planted new relationships, feed them well and grow these relationships.
If you have solved some problem based on someone’s suggestion, let them know and thank them again. If you see information that you think someone likes, send it over to them. If it was career advice you got, update them on what you are up to every now and then. Keep in mind, you are not the only person who invested time, they also invested in their time meeting you. Don’t just let it sit and rot.
As you can see, the path to a good business network is not as hard as it may sound like. As with all skills it will need lots and lots of practice, but you and your startup will grow on these experiences.
The authors Alexander Pinker and David Herld are both members of the board at SUN. Just klick here to find out more about the independent, non-profit association.