As the founder of a start-up, you would need many things and a great network of contacts is one of the most important of them. The theory of socially embedded ties assumes that there is a close relationship between the founder’s network and the start-up’s success. Entrepreneurs with the right contacts can get cheaper or rarely available resources too. You might have a great product or business model and tons of funding but there is no denying that a huge network can take your business to the next level. While many people have no clue as to how to go about it or if they even can, at the core, it is actually just about connecting with a fellow human and enjoying the process. Here’s how you too can get the most out of your networking skills and grow your business:
Fix Your Goals
Even your networking must have goals. Setting small everyday goals which are achievable is better than just focusing on the larger picture. You should constantly strive to focus on how every effort of yours towards making a connection fits into your goals. These will give you a sense of satisfaction and achievement as you grow your network. Your goals can also include who would be interested in your business and how to reach them, be it potential investors, people you want to be your mentors or even your future team-members or co-founders.
Change Your Mindset
Networking is not “work”. You should enjoy it, irrespective of how and where the first interaction happens, be it at a formal event or a random café. You should be genuinely interested in striking a conversation with the other person and not worry about how it is going to help you or your business. Let the discussions be as natural as possible without feeling forced. A genuine, authentic conversation will take you much further than a business card exchange or a superficial conversation.
Have Great Etiquette
Networking might be the need of the hour for your business but as mentioned earlier, it has to be genuine. Listen to what the other person has to say and be genuinely interested in that. Be considerate and thoughtful. Always remember that networking is a two-way street and only genuine conversations can make it successful.
Revise Your Elevator Pitch
When you are selling your business or your idea to anyone, you should remember that time is a big constraint. Even initiating a conversation requires interest from the other party and that can only be aroused if you can quickly get the person genuinely invested in your idea. Keep your elevator pitch ready and practice it thoroughly, many many times in front of a mirror. Elevator pitches should not be long (hence the name!) or boring but casual yet effective. It should cover everything from who you are and what you do to how you want to fill in a gap with your product.
Focus on Quality, not on Quantity
Having a huge network is useful, but having the right network is even more so. The focus should be to make friends, not just mere acquaintances. They should be from as diverse fields as possible. You never know when one can help you out in which situation. As much as we have emphasized the importance of elevator pitches, they should never force your business down someone’s throat. Try to know the person well in the first meeting and show genuine interest by remembering the details. People love it when they know you have taken the efforts to remember their name or any other detail. Always follow up after a meeting as a long-term relationship can be forged from a casual interaction only with that. Knowing 10 people well is better than having 100 “contacts” you do not remember or could not care less about. Make real, human connections.
Make Yourself Useful
The greatest benefit of networking is the ability to get and lend help because of your connections. Position yourself or your product as a resource that people can find valuable. If people know right from the first meeting how they can benefit from your presence in their life, they will care more about what you have to say or offer. Networking is as much about giving as it is about getting. A generous individual who wants to give more than what he receives has the real advantage in today’s world.
When you put genuine efforts to improve your networking skills, its effects soon start showing. While better relationships come with the obvious benefit of better opportunities for your business, you should never focus on solely that. You not only grow as an individual but also get to learn from every person you meet. You can network with anyone, anywhere and he might be able to connect you with someone from his connections and the cycle can go on. Your network can be useful in the most unexpected of times. While the importance of social media cannot be negated, genuine conversations and interactions are what drive relationships. So chuck handing out business cards like pamphlets and start building relationships that are sincere, honest and provide value to both the parties involved.
The Startup Process
We know how important your dream business is to you. Therefore, we’ve come up with an all in one guide: The Startup Process to help you turn your vision into reality.