It wasn’t until I tried to actually connect with the people in my ‘network’ that I realised that most of them had no idea who I was. So reality hit hard and fast – I didn’t have a ‘network’, I had a collection of business cards. That’s when I had my epiphany.
It’s not who you know; it’s who knows you.
Networking today is all about making real connections. Connect to people that you can collaborate with either through business or personal relations. My network today is one that I work at constantly. I make sure that I am personally in contact with my key connections at least once a year just to keep the memory of our connection fresh in their minds.
LinkedIn, if used intelligently, can be an excellent medium to keep connections alive. If you post interesting and useful information regularly and interact with your connections in a meaningful way, your network will remain relevant and fresh. Even those connections that you don’t interact with directly will see your profile picture in their LinkedIn feed regularly thereby creating that sense of familiarity.
So where do you meet these quality connections? The answer is NOT ONLINE! In a B2B world where an ongoing relationship with your customer base has a measurable financial benefit, building a successful network in Australia (or anywhere) is best done by building a network of people that you have met face to face. People whose business and values you understand and share. These people are found generally at business events, seminars, summits, networking events, cocktails, receptions and conferences.
Once you commit to building your network and communicating with them so that they know who you are, you need to choose the specific business events that will put you in front of the type of connections you wish to have in your network. For example; if you are seeking to connect with government, a Google search will identify what events exist that will have government officials or a government supply chain audience in attendance. From there it is a matter of registering and attending the event with the goal of meeting relevant connections to build your network.
The best places to find these types of events are Chambers of Commerce, Industry associations, large multinational industry leaders that have regular educational events on their products and local networking groups. Just be wary of this last category as some have turned into old boys networks and are just a drain and waste of time. Some local chambers don’t get any new blood into the leadership or membership and therefore don’t remain relevant to the communities that they are meant to service.
Once you decide to attend an event make sure that you are prepared. Many people arrive at networking and business events stressed, angry, basically not wanting to be there. What they don’t realise is they do themselves a disservice being there because all they will attract is negative people like themselves. They are almost guaranteed to have a miserable time. So how can you maximise your attendance at these events?
1. Decide why you are attending this event. What do you want to get out of it? Is there a specific person you want to meet? Are you looking for a certain service provider?
The clearer you are on why you are going, the more chance you have of achieving it.
2. If there is an attendee list, get one. If that isn’t an option, then try to snap a quick picture of the name tags on the registration desk. Most name tags will have all the details you will need to identify the people that you wish to connect with.
3. Remember to take your business cards. A business card that clearly states your name, what you do, and your contact details is imperative for effective networking. Give your business card to the person you are meeting as part of your introduction, “Hi, I’m Robert Hossary, I’m a business connection specialist.” That is as much as you are going to say about yourself, unless they ask.
4. Don’t sell your product or services at the event. Rather, if the person expresses interest, suggest that you phone them to discuss further. You cannot control the situation and you may find “dinner is served” is announced mid pitch and you have lost a great opportunity to make a sale.
No one wants to be sold to.
5. Have quality conversations rather than quantity. If there are 50 people at the event, don’t expect to speak to all fifty. Be content with a quality conversation with 5-7 people who the next day will look at your card and remember you and what you spoke about, and more importantly remember you the next time they see you.
6. The best networkers are the best listeners. Anyone will speak to you for ten minutes if you are not speaking about yourself.
7. Listen to the latest news or talk back radio on your way to the event, so that you have a couple of interesting current topics to talk about. Be prepared.
8. Avoid talking about work. 80% of the population don’t get recognition on the job and don’t want to speak about their job at all.
9. Always make eye contact when you are speaking to someone – unless it is culturally unacceptable.
The one takeaway I hope anyone reading this article gains is that your connections will remember you because of your passion and integrity. Believe what you tell people and deliver what you promise them. That way when they are asked to refer someone in your industry the first name they think of is yours.
It’s all about who knows you!
For seven years, Robert was the General Manager NSW / ACT for the American Chamber of Commerce in Australia (AmCham). He helped advise many Australian and US companies regarding their international expansion requirements. Prior to that, Robert was country manager in the USA for a technology manufacturer and in 2008 was named in VSR Magazine’s 1st Annual Review & Outlook as a business leader in the USA’s Mobility Industry. He has also worked in Taiwan with responsibility for Asia Pacific and the Middle East. Robert has a diverse industry background: Technology, Transport, Fashion and Healthcare.
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