5 surprising secrets to networking success

Networking is tough.

According to a study in Harvard Business Review, “many (professionals) understandably see it as brown-nosing, exploitative and inauthentic.”

That same study, however, proves networking boosts sales. Lawyers who networked had more billable hours than colleagues who didn’t. Further, another study in the U.K. found that managers who networked generated an average of 25 per cent more sales than those who avoided it.

So networking really can work. But how do you make it effective and even enjoyable for yourself?

Be selective

Don’t just go to any event remotely related to your industry. Zak Slayback, an author, career strategist and venture capitalist, looks for events with criteria like paid admission, invitation-only, a professional license or accreditation, or membership in an industry association.

networking by zoom

These filters keep crowd sizes lower and promote attendance among guests from higher levels of leadership. That improves your chances of meeting people who can make key buying or hiring decisions.

Listen

It’s better to listen than to talk, especially if you’re networking to increase sales. A ThinkGrowth.org experiment discovered that although most salespeople talk for 65 to 75 per cent of the time during conversations with prospective buyers, reps who talk far less — just 43 per cent of the time — have the highest sales.

Networking isn’t just talking about yourself. Listen and learn.

Give back

Find ways to contribute to your sector. Be a volunteer, organizer, speaker, donor, host, panellist or judge at networking events. Get involved in industry groups. Mentor up-and-comers. Create blog posts, case studies or podcasts.

networking groups

As content marketing expert Ryan Robinson writes, “to build lifelong connections, you need to constantly be providing value. With every piece of value you give out, you position yourself as an expert and as a trusted resource.”

It all demonstrates your knowledge and credibility while increasing your visibility. In time, industry hotshots will start seeking you out.

Ditch the hard sell

Don’t make selling your only networking goal. Instead, focus on building relationships.

Seek out people in your industry who you genuinely like and share common interests with. This fosters real trust and rapport. It won’t land you a big sale or promotion instantly, but it will inevitably lead to opportunities over the course of your career.

business teamwork

As digital marketing guru Jennifer Spencer advises in Entrepreneur, “relationship building should be the most natural thing you do as an entrepreneur. Be yourself and the right people will be attracted to your personality and the message of your business.”

Network outside your industry

Every other week, film producer Brian Grazer has what he calls a “curiosity conversation,” a one-hour meeting with someone fascinating who’s not in the movie business.

“The entertainment industry is incredibly insular — we tend to talk only to ourselves,” Grazer explained in his book, A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life.

“It was Veronica de Negri, a Chilean activist who was tortured for months by her own government, who taught me what it’s like to be forced to rely completely on oneself to survive,” Grazer wrote.

Her insights helped him powerfully convey a similar human predicament in Apollo 13, a movie about astronauts trapped in space.

These brief encounters have injected humanity and creativity into Grazer’s films, which have garnered 43 Oscar nominations. The chats have also been great for business: his movies have grossed over $13 billion worldwide.

Networking outside your industry broadens your thinking and shifts your perspective in ways that could make you valuable new connections — and money. By taking these steps, you can improve both your personal connections and professional relationships, while taking your career and business to new heights.

If you’re in business, we’re here to help. ACU’s Community Financial Centre and Business Financial Centre can provide advice and strategic guidance to help you plan a path for business growth. Reach out to your Account Manager or book an appointment today.

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About Christine Wong

Christine Wong has been covering business and technology since 1995, when Mark Zuckerberg was in sixth grade. A former associate producer at Business News Network and Slice TV, Wong freelances while chasing after the biggest story of her life — Ben, who is 10.

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