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It’s not what you know, but who you know!
Everyone understands this, but it begs a question - how do you meet the “right” people if they aren’t already in your social or business circles?
Here are 7 tips you can use right now to give you the best chance of networking your way to the people who could help you on your journey to startup success.
1. Meet People Through Other People - Wait What?!?
You’re here for uncommon tips, but we need to get this seemingly obvious one out of the way first. We believe it’s easy to overlook.
Most people ignore what they already have and focus on what they don’t have.
One of the best ways to connect with people is through your existing contacts.
It’s clear being referred to new people through those you already know is an easy way to get introductions to contacts who could be useful to you.
But, if you’re like most people, you think you only have a small circle of people you know. You miss the wide range of people you could get referrals from!
You can ask for introductions from your friends, family, neighbours, tennis partners or 5-a-side buddies, people you were at school or uni with, former colleagues, the barista who always brews for you at your regular coffee haunt…
The list of places you can find people you already know is almost endless. Don’t miss those tenuous connections, which could prove valuable!
2. Talk about yourself the right way
Many books and blog posts about networking tell you to create an elevator pitch - a short few sentences you can say which quickly and neatly sums up who you are and what you’re about..
The trouble is, when you’re trying to meet new contacts, you need to stand out from the crowd as someone people are going to want to know.
Most elevator pitches begin with a job title - I’m a Founder, I’m an Accountant, I work in Real Estate, I’m a Personal Trainer.
Beginning with your job title is a sure-fire way to get people to switch off for two reasons:
First, you’re not differentiating yourself from any other Founder/Accountant/Personal Trainer.
Second - and here’s the kicker - the people you meet only care about what you can do for them or the people they know.
People probably don’t have an immediate need for an Accountant or Personal Trainer. Nor do they know someone with an immediate need.
Instead, tell people what they are left with after working with you:
“I help people pay less tax” (Accountant), “I help people buy the property of their dreams” (Real Estate) or “I make my clients more attractive to their ideal partner” (Personal Trainer).
Doing this differentiates you as you’re no longer one of dozens of Founders, Accountants, PTs etc. And it tells the other people exactly what you can do for them or others they know - you’re immediately useful to them.
3. Don’t take up too much time
Now you’ve started to talk about yourself well, you’re going to need to get through talking about yourself as quickly and efficiently as you can.
The important thing is to stick to a short script you’ve pre-prepared and find a way to get the other person to talk about themselves again.
First, have you ever been speaking to someone who wouldn’t shut up about themselves?
You end up getting their full life story about how their granny used to knit socks for them when they were little and you get chapter and verse on how many GCSEs they got?
If you’ve experienced this you probably couldn’t wait to get away from this person and were looking for any excuse to chat to the “fun group” on the other side of the room.
Don’t let this be you! Stick to the script and shut up.
Second, see above - people love talking about themselves. A surefire way to get someone to think you’re interested in them and what they have to say is to listen to them…
BUT you want to steer the conversation to find out the things you need to know about the person you’re chatting with.
Which brings me on to…
4. Know who you want to meet
When meeting a new person, each of you has a job. You both need to find out if the other person is useful to you in some way.
This might seem like a mercenary way to get to know someone, but here’s the thing - there are only a finite number of people you can have in your network of contacts.
Robin Dunbar - an Anthropologist and Evolutionary Psychologist - has calculated the maximum number of people each human can have in their network and still be able to keep in touch with them.
That number is 150.
Dunbar’s Number means we need to be selective with who we know.
According to Dunbar, close family groups usually consist of 8-10 people. So a good chunk of your quota is already spoken for… Would you want to fill the remaining portion with just anyone you meet?
No! You want to know whether they’re going to be a fun, interesting, useful person to be around.
Imagine you’re watching a fishing trawler haul up its net after a hard day’s trawling. In the net are big fish, tiddly little fish and old boots.
The fishermen will be throwing the old boots back into the sea, they’re useless to them. The fish are useful. But what they’re really after are the big fish.
Think of networking in the same way. There are probably going to be a load of old boots you meet who you want to throw back into the networking sea. The tiddly fish could be of interest to you…
But what you’re really looking for are the big fish. The people who are going to be very useful for you to know.
So, know who your big fish are and plan on ways to meet them.
Your job when meeting new people is to find out if they are a big fish, a tiddler or an old boot.
And you need to do this as quickly as possible so as not to waste your time, or the time of the other person. It could be you’re an old boot to them too, they just don’t know it yet!
5. Have excellent manners
You might mistakenly think my opinion of networking is it’s all about the Machiavellian process of using other people for personal gain.
And if you misunderstood tips 2, 3 and 4 you might forget your manners as the person you’re meeting introduces themselves as an Accountant, they give you their life story and you realise they’re an old boot…
But if you keep your wits about you and remember yourself as the well mannered person you were brought up to be, you’ll probably do these things whilst networking:
5. Make sure you Follow Up
As marketers love to tell us - “The Riches are in the (American pronunciation of) Niches”
But they also know - “The Fortune is in the Follow Up”.
Most people tend not to close many deals at networking events. Have you ever made a sale at one? No, me neither…
What do you think the odds are of finding exactly the right contact at the next networking event you’re going to? Someone who a) wants what you’re pitching b) at that point in time and c) to the extent they don’t want to speak to anyone else in the room.
I’d say the chances are slim to nothing.
But that’s actually great news!
Because striking a deal at an event is unlikely, it means the best you can realistically hope for is:
To meet someone, figure out if they’re worth staying in touch with, then arrange another meeting to flesh things out and get to know them better.
It means the aim of networking is to find a big fish and arrange a coffee meeting with them on a subsequent occasion. Which takes the pressure off and makes your goals much easier.
But you must follow up to arrange the subsequent meeting. Otherwise, what’s the point?
You’d be surprised how many people miss this crucial step.
6. Knowing What To Say
A conversation at a networking event has five steps:
Step one is easy. All you need to say is “Hello, I’m James” (if your name is James, which mine is).
The only answer to this is “Hello, I’m [their name]”. Conversation is a-go…
But this conversation starter only really works if you’re meeting one person.
What if you’re at an event and approaching a group of people chatting enthusiastically amongst themselves, who might be willing for you to join them?
Barging in and announcing “Hello, I’m James” wouldn’t be a good start at all…
It would be better to ask permission to join the group by saying something like:
Step one of the networking conversation, sorted!
7. Leverage Social Media
Whilst we think there’s no substitute for meeting in-person, we’d be doing you a disservice, Dear Reader, if we missed out the other key way to meet people - on social media.
Like it or loathe it, social media is HUGE.
And because it’s huge it means everyone is on it (other than my 100 year old Grandmother).
LinkedIn and Twitter make it easy to find the specific social circles you want to be involved in.
Opening up communication with people in these circles is as simple as adding a thoughtful or useful comment to one of their posts. Something which will be of value for that person and their following.
If you’ve struck the right tone, you’ll likely start a conversation with the person or people you want to get to know. Which gives you the opportunity to continue the conversation offline or one on one via DMs. This could be the start of a productive connection for both of you.
Now, what are you waiting for? Get out and network!
Don’t know where? We’re here to help with that too.
Sign up to Rbbl’s waitlist for the opportunity to use all 7 of these tips at one of the fantastic events we list on our platform!!