What is Networking? It gets a really bad reputation, but networking can be a very profitable endeavor. It can do so without forcing you to be that obnoxious salesperson that came to mind earlier.
What is Networking?
At its core, networking is the formalized practice of building relationships and meeting new people. We networking in most aspects of our lives from kids’ school functions to social gatherings. Most people think networking are formal events where everyone is trying to make a sale. This doesn’t have to be the scene you find yourself in.
In my opinion, a networking event exists whenever you are meeting someone new or reconnecting with someone and there’s a possibility for a referral or other business relationship. As a small business owner, this is every interaction I have with other people besides my wife and employees. Yes, my friends are potential clients and referral sources. Why wouldn’t they be? If I could help one of my friends or a connection of theirs, I would hope my friends trust me and like me enough to be the attorney of choice.
Where do I Network?
Everywhere! Networking is just building relationships. This can happen everywhere. The only difference is how you choose to present yourself. You obviously would look tacky if you handed out business cards at your best friend’s wedding. However, I have gotten clients from weddings. I didn’t get them because I solicited business. I got clients because they found out what I do and when the time came, they would reach out directly to see if I’d be a good fit for them.
If you’re looking for business specific ones, I recommend first asking business connections. Without those, I started on Meetup.com. One thing I advise against is cold calls. Your chance of successfully building a quality relationship off of a cold call is slim. It’s not 0, but it’s low.
The trick is to be sincere, good at what you do, and in the right moment. Much like the wedding example, your actions need to match the event you’re at. If you’re at a baby shower, there’s no need to tell everyone what you do. However, if someone asks, feel free to share it. What you can do is get to know the other people there. If you’re sincere, people generally like you. People who like you tend to want to send business to you.
Unless someone directly asks to hire you, don’t offer your product or service to people at an event. Even pure business events are about building relationships and getting to know people. They’re not about making a quick sale.