5 unconventional networking tips for startups
You're reading Entrepreneur India, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.
Startups is the way of the future, startups are here to stay. With more and more people starting new businesses, networking is more important than ever. But this situation has a problem. We are taught several things, from technical skills to starting and growing a business, but we’re ‘never’ taught networking. And yet, we all feel that networking is important for our business and because of this gap, so many of us feel unsure about networking. So what are some important things about ‘Networking Right’, which startups could and should focus on?
Here is some food for thought:
1. Think building networks and not networking
The first and the foremost thing that startups need to do when it comes to networking is to stop thinking networking and start thinking of building network. What’s the difference you ask?
Well, when one thinks networking, one tends to go out there to events to meet people and essentially those who could be sold to. I usually see startups trying to sell their concept so hard, that if the person in front of them is not a prospect, they move on to the next person.
On the other hand, when you think of building your network, you know that the person, who may not be a prospect, is a gateway to a whole new network. And if an effort is made to bring a person into your network and gain his trust, it’s likely that he would be willing to open the doors of his network for you.
After all, we all like to go above and beyond the call of duty for those we trust. Just imagine for a moment, how it would be to have a network of successful and influential people around you.
Learning: Focusing on brining people into your network by earning their trust. Build great networks!
2. You’re the Product
No matter what product or service you offer, no matter how amazing it is or even how boring it may be, always remember that people first buy people and then what they sell.
The value of this just can’t be overstated. In networking world, the most sold product is ‘people’, which is you! Almost every day, I see people talking about their products/services, making every effort to convince people of what they have is amazing, putting little effort to focus on them.
Learning: Focus on showing people the strength of your character. Once they buy you, they would buy what you’re selling.
3. Be strategic & create a goal driven plan
We all believe that networking is critical to our success and yet, we have no plan or strategy for it. We wake up to networking when attending a networking event comes and pretty much forget about it the other day.
Let me say it again, it’s not about networking anymore, it’s about building network and you can build network even if there are no events out there. To be able to build a great network, you need to have a plan and to create a plan, try the following:
a) Write down your goal(s)
b) Then write what kind of people you need to connect to achieve this goal
c) Ask yourself, how can you get in front of these people and more importantly, how can you gain their trust
d) Don’t limit yourself to just prospects
e) Then comes the most important part, create an ‘Out-Reach’ plan. Here you would reach out to the people and set a weekly networking time budget for yourself, which you have exhausted even if there is no event.
4. Be out there
Ensure that your networking is ‘Intentional’ and not circumstantial. It’s vital to remember that networking is about building networks of people who trust us. Make sure that you are out there meeting good people and earning their trust by constantly looking for ways to create value for others.
Many just wait for networking events, so that they could meet new people. The truth is that – we all have existing networks and can we really claim that we have leveraged our existing network completely? I doubt. If we can claim so, then why is that we are always out there trying to meet new people and are not thinking about strengthening relationship with our existing networks.
Learning: Constantly work to build even stronger relationships with the people who are already in your network, they already like you; you just have to win their trust.
5. It’s both – Online and Offline!
There is a growing trend, where people think ‘online’, the moment there is talk of networking. While online networking compliments the offline networking quite well, it is in no way a substitute for it.
In fact, your networking is incomplete if you are not building networks offline. It is most important that you are actively and intentionally meeting people offline as well.
Learning: Offline networking is equally important, if not more. Connect with people online and take relationships forward offline.