You’ve heard it. I’ve heard it. “It’s not what you know; it’s who you know.”
But how do you meet the “who”?
Hint: it’s not LinkedIn.
Over the course of several years, I can count on one hand the number of referrals / opportunities that have come from a LinkedIn connection.
In my experience, LinkedIn serves to cement relationships, but does not form them nor maintain them.
Yes, there have been some good opportunities that have come from cold connections on LinkedIn, but those have been the exception, not the rule. For that reason, I don’t recommend abandoning it completely, merely shifting the focus to…
The human brain is a funny thing. According to Simon Sinek’s “Start With Why,” we humans tend to make our decisions emotionally, then justify them rationally. This explains the very human tendency towards “impulse purchases” and “going with our gut.”
Don’t let anyone ever tell you that business isn’t emotional. I’ve heard multiple stories of billion-dollar deals that went south because someone got ‘bad vibes’ at the signing.
So, in a world of emotional decision-making, the best possible way you can connect with anyone is by meeting them face-to-face. Sharing the warmth of true—and genuine—face-to-face fellowship.
But how does that happen? I’m about to say a word that makes me cringe…
If you’ve been around a long enough time, this word probably rubs you the wrong way too.
Conjured forth in your mind is the image of the ‘used car salesman’ type, dressed in a sleazy suit, whose sole aim is to get his business card in your pocket. You feel like a target, not a person. To him, networking is an end, not the means to an end.
This is not what I mean by networking.
What I mean is merely the act of getting yourself out there to meet people—NOT meeting people with the animal instinct of taking down a kill. That makes people uncomfortable. When was the last time you enjoyed walking into a used car dealership?
But to do this—to do networking right—you have to…
Reset your goal.
Before you go to any networking event, you need to eliminate your expectations and reset your goal.
Your primary goal is NOT to:
- land a deal
- make people like you
- force a relationship
- get someone’s contact info
Your primary goal IS to:
- be yourself
- be relaxed
- have fun
- make other people have fun
The fact is that people generally gravitate towards confident, fun, relaxed people. So be that person. Be you.
And guess what! If people enjoy being around you, they’ll look for any excuse to do so—even if that means working with you.
To quote my father, a Chairman and CEO of a NASDAQ-traded company,
“People like doing business with their friends.”
So, take the pressure off. Reset your goal. And have fun. Now you’re ready to get out there, so let’s…
Find networking events.
I’ve been to good networking events and I’ve been to bad networking events. Here’s what I’ve learned:
1. Choose your location carefully.
This depends on your business. If you’re looking to meet with executives of enterprise companies, you’ll probably need to go to a major city. But if you’re just looking to build inroads in your local community, a chamber of commerce meeting might be perfect.
2. Search for your industry and related industries.
If you’re in video production, go to video production gatherings, sure, but also go to marketing events, startup launches, anywhere you might meet interesting people who might eventually need your services.
3. Do your research.
Time is money. Don’t waste either. Do a bit of research into the event itself, read comments, posts, etc. about the event to see what types of people will be there. Are they your target market? Are they well-funded? Can they use your product or service?
But always remember, the goal here is to find people that you’d enjoy working with, so be creative and have fun!
Have another idea for how to meet clients? Or perhaps have a networking horror story? Would love to hear it below!