I was a guest speaker at an entrepreneurship event on Saturday and I asked the entrepreneurs a question:
“Your Funding or Your Network, which is more important?”
I would not answer the question now. I will let you decide at the end of this article.
Steve Jobs and Steve Woz met a long time ago. Woz was the guy who liked to piece things together to make new stuff for fun. Jobs on the other hand was an innate brand conscious entrepreneur.
The two met and created a product. After presenting this product to a group of techies (Homebrew Computer club), only one person, Paul Terrel saw the potential and followed up. He pre-ordered 1000 circuit boards. Cut the long story short, after asking almost everyone on his contact list for the initial investment to build the boards, Steve Jobs was referred to Mike Markulla by another potential investor and that was when the story of Apple really started as a company.
Although the goal was funding, the path to achieving that goal was paved with good network. There are so many other great entrepreneur stories with similar trends when it comes to funding and networking. It is therefore evident that networking is vital as an entrepreneur.
So how can you turn up your networking game?
Your personal brand is made up of 3 vital elements: How you look (80%) + What you say (20%) + How you say it (10%)
How you look: People make opinions about you before you open your mouth to speak. These opinions are based on how you look and your body language. Steve jobs felt the brunt of not looking good in his early days as an entrepreneur. You don’t have to look too stylish. Just look clean, smell good (body, mouth and feed), smile, look presentable and confident. Confidence is attractive.
What you say: The words that come out of your mouth say a lot about you. Be mindful of what you say. Don’t talk too much about yourself. Stay informed about a wide range of topics to aide engagement in conversation. Think before you talk and talk with wisdom. Avoid blabbing. Don’t cold sell or market your business. Connect and let the business conversations glide in naturally.
How you say it: Your tone and word construction go a long way in conversation. “Shut up” and “Keep quiet” mean the same thing but have different effects. Choose your words wisely and mind your tone.
Networking is not about talking. It is actually more about listening. Listening to both the “said” and “unsaid” elements of a conversation. If you listen closely, you would be able to hear the problems of whomever you are speaking to and this will help you connect better. You may even learn about their interests and find out more about them.
Based on the information you get while listening, you can identify their pain points and offer possible solution, either verbally or via action. Focus on giving. Everybody takes and it is always a breath of fresh air to find people who give instead. Research the person or spot a point of need and suggest a solution. Offer value and you will be definitely remembered. Personal branding helps you make an impression, offering value seals that impression.
It is not enough to just meet and offer value, follow up. Call, email, text, send emails etc. Keep the contact active. The ultimate goal is to convert this relationship to friendship or something defined (mentor, acquaintance, etc)
Leverage on social media:
Use smart names as handles, preferably your name or a derivative of your personal brand (it will help your seo). Share sensible content and comment/share posts of others. People can make an opinion about you based on your social media. Make sure it is a good one. By the way follow me on LinkedIn *wink Wink* (Gotta practice what I preach)
Be kind to people:
You never know who is who or will become who. A receptionist or a gateman can be your ticket through the door to the CEO. Don’t underestimate anyone anywhere. Not even on social media.
“Be nice to the people you meet on your way up as you will meet them on your way down and what determines if you will go up again is how you treated them in the past”.
Attend networking events:
Funny thing is anywhere can be an opportunity to network, you just have to get up and show up. However, some events are often packed with like minds or people with shared vision, goals, dreams, interests etc. These are networking events. Be on the look out for events within your area of interest and show up!!! You might just meet someone key to your life journey. Talking about events, Startup Grind is one of those awesome entrepreneurship events where you could network with like minds, potential partners and investors. Start implementing what you have just read, click this to attend.
As you take on the challenge to network, armed with more knowledge as your super power, don’t forget that to get the best out of networking you need a selfless mindset. Always be on the look out for scenarios to offer value and you will be on the right track to lasting impressions.