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Top tips for effective networking

Top tips for effective networking

AJ Kulatunga is an entrepreneur and the director of BLKMGK Social, a strategic marketing consultancy that helps companies survive and thrive in business using the secrets of great entrepreneurs. Here he discusses why networking is a great way to build your business and gives tips for how get the most out if the investment of your time, money and energy.

Effective networking is about building rapport with the people you meet. Business cards should only come out after you’ve made a genuine connection. If you want to build a network that provides you with endless opportunities, here are a few suggestions to transform you into a networking superstar!

Act with purpose

When I run my ‘Building Connections’ workshop, I begin by telling everyone to network for three minutes. Chaos ensues and it’s interesting to see what people consider networking.

There are those who play the numbers game to collect as many cards as possible. There are the love birds: two people who just sit together, ignoring everyone else and enjoying each other’s company. And then there are the strategic connectors who work the room, adding value to everyone they meet.

The difference between the strategic networker and the other two is that they are driven by a specific purpose. They don’t network just for the sake of it. They are here to add value to the room and help as many people as possible.

Work strategically

When I started my business, I used to have the energy to walk into a room of 300 people and by the end of the event I would make sure that all 300 of them knew who I was and how I could help them. Now I’m more strategic.

Before the event, I connect with the organisers to find out who is going to be in the room and if there is anyone they would recommend I talk to. I also connect with the speaker and ask them some questions about their work. Email and LinkedIn are pure gold for this.

When I’m at the event, I connect with the people the organisers suggested and after the event I spend time with the speaker. The people most interested in the topic will want to ask them questions and they’re the ones who will probably be in the market for my services.

Build rapport quickly

The funny thing about networking functions is that most people are not there to do business with other people. This means if you only talk business people are likely to switch off and ignore you. Instead, use the FORD principle to build rapport and start building a connection. Get deeply curious and talk to people about their:

  • Family.
  • Occupation.
  • Relaxation.
  • Dreams.

If you get to the stage where someone is willing to share their dreams with you then you know you’ve made a real connection.

Stop selling; start helping

My entire networking philosophy is about becoming incredibly valuable, and it is based on a quote by motivational speaker Zig Ziglar:

“You can have everything you want in life if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”

Whenever I go to a networking function, I’m not looking for sales opportunities – I’m looking to add value to everyone I meet. After you’ve built a rapport with someone, the easiest way to add value is to solve a problem for them.

Find out what is annoying them at that moment and then offer to help them directly with your knowledge or refer them to someone in your network who might be able to help. You could even spend a few moments researching their problem and send them an article or a video that might help solve their problem.

If you follow these tips, you will build up an incredibly valuable network of raving fans who know, like and trust you enough to bring you business. Occasionally you might meet someone who is unwilling to help you (even after you have helped them), but unfortunately that is just the cost of doing business. Learn the lesson and move on to the thousands of others who would love to help you when you need it.

Happy networking!

Encouraging openness and transparency in the workplace can take any number of forms. Learn more about how to open the lines of business communication.

AJ Kulatunga is an entrepreneur and the director of BLKMGK Social, a strategic marketing consultancy that helps companies survive and thrive in business using the secrets of great entrepreneurs. He writes, speaks and trains professionals on how to become better entrepreneurs by focusing on their business, motivation and leadership skills. Engage AJ to inspire your people to think differently in 2015 via or connect with AJ on LinkedIn.

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