So you’ve decided to pursue a niche, and to begin attending networking events to meet influencers and potential clients. When networking with niche groups and strategic allies, here are some proven keys to making a good first impression—and continuing to build a valuable business network.
1. Show up. Woody Allen famously said “80% of life is just showing up.” It goes without saying, you can’t network if you don’t show up. This will entail a commitment of several hours per week. Make a list of groups that you feel would be appropriate for you—they must cater to people you’re trying to reach, but you must also be genuinely interested in the group’s goals and mission. The mission should reflect positively on your business, as well. Choose three to five networking groups that meet monthly, and commit to attending, and meeting at least three to five new people at each event—building your networking pool by at least 15 people per month over a long period.
- Project confidence. When you walk into a room to network, think of what you bring to the table: your knowledge, your expertise, and your willingness to help others. Build up your confidence by thinking of how you’ve helped others in the past. You really want to psych yourself up and carry yourself with confidence. Always offer a firm handshake and look people in the eye. Upwards of 93% of communication is non-verbal (A psychologist famously found 55% of communication is body language, 38% is the tone of voice, and 7% is the actual words spoken.) The way you carry yourself and speak suggests that you are a competent professional.
- Forget yourself. While you always want to project confidence, that doesn’t mean being boastful or pushy. (In fact, it’s always easier to be confident when your purpose is to help others.) One of the surefire ways to fail at networking, is to think solely about building your business. Seeing attendees as wallets with legs makes you a professional predator! Instead, find ways to help others achieve their goals, even if it’s not something related to your business. Think: Can I assist them? Can I be a contributor in this group? Many successful advisors attend events with the goal of listening to others, gathering ideas, stimulating conversation, and finding some way to follow-up after—either with an article or a helpful email. Listening will be your biggest tool in a successful networking event. Listen for opportunities to serve.
- Take the next step. Find ways to stand out by volunteering to be a speaker or valuable contributor. When you contribute to the group, you are giving away information. People begin to know who you are and what you can provide and that puts you in sort of different position. Groups are always looking for ways to grow their membership and/or raise funds. Many advisors find success by being a super contributor to the groups they attend. An advisor in Oklahoma joined the Chamber of Commerce All-Stars, by making a slightly higher contribution to the group. He began to receive referrals as he raised his profile in the group.
- Become a mentor. This will take effort over time. But people who share generally become more successful. Offering to help members of your niche succeed in their business or profession will help you build your reputation in your niche – and you might just be on the positive end of a karmic transaction. Some advisors emerge as leaders in the niches by showing others how to do it – how to find success on their own terms.
The more you help, the more you succeed. The results may surprise you. Once you take the initiative to meet people, become involved, and serve them, momentum can take over and drive you to your business goals.