Networking 101: The Perfect Guide for Entrepreneurs to grow their business
8 minute read
Networking — you either love it or hate it. However, as a growing entrepreneur, it is a skill that is not only essential, but will go a long way in growing your business. Knowing how to create, build, and sustain lasting relationships can often make the difference between a good business and a great one.
As face-to-face meetings and conferences resume, it is time to sharpen those dormant networking skills. So how can you get about doing so? Find out as we share more about the successful art of networking in this article.
Networking in a post-pandemic world
Let’s address the elephant in the room. How has Covid-19 impacted the way we network?
As with most things, the pandemic forced many entrepreneurs to take their business online, with networking being no different. Virtual networking was the name of the game, as online meetings and conferences took precedence.
While this certainly facilitated establishing a sense of normalcy, the reality is that every online conference, zoom meeting, and remote social event led to burnout (hello, Zoom fatigue) and fractioned interactions.
With social restrictions easing up in most countries, entrepreneurs can fully expect in-person networking to make a resounding comeback. Surveys reveal that 4 in 5 individuals are keen to return to live events within the next 12 months, with one-third of respondents willing to travel to attend one.
But that’s not to say we abandon virtual networking completely. While the shift to virtual meetings had made networking harder, it also showed us benefits that we should adopt moving forward. For instance, having the opportunity to network with global leaders in countries and businesses far away from Singapore. As with future-proofing your business, successful networking in a post-pandemic world is about taking the learnings adopting a hybrid way of networking.
6 strategies to ace the networking game
#1: Know your networking style
What kind of networker are you? Figuring out how you best network is just as important as discovering your leadership and working style.
There are many schools of thought when it comes to categorizing network styles, but one that’s particularly useful comes from Marissa King, Professor of Organizational Behaviour at the Yale School of Management. According to King, there are 3 basic kinds of networkers:
- Coveners. Have close, interconnected networks and primarily focus on maintaining existing relationships; many in their networks may also know each other or share similar demographics or opinions.
- Brokers. Adapters who can easily adjust to different social circumstances, may have overlapping social groups and are great at connecting people together.
- Expansionists. Conventional networker who knows someone everywhere they go and may thrive on meeting strangers; has huge networks that may cross many industries.
Not everyone falls in each distinct category, and some may even be a hybrid of two. Our advice? Know who you are and recognize the networking style of others that will put your mind at ease and help you make meaningful connections. Remember comparisons are odious, and you need to be comfortable in your skin to shine as a networker.
#2: The magic of a tiny favour
You’ve probably heard of the Benjamin Franklin effect. Essentially, it’s a cognitive bias that makes it more probable for an individual to be receptive after performing a simple task. As you might imagine, this is a valuable concept to be aware of when networking.
The key to getting this cognitive trick to work in your favor is to start small, and use that as a gateway to establish a more favorable relationship.
For example, let’s assume you’re having a hard time connecting with an individual. Think of a way you can ask them for a favor by exploring an area of interest that they are knowledgeable in. Use that to ask for their expert advice or favor on that related topic. The key then is to follow up with a sincere appreciation for their time.
Remember: As people invest more of their time and effort into you, the more likely they’ll value the connection even more. As Benjamin Franklin himself puts it, “He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another than he whom you yourself have obliged.”
Simply put — to build rapport, don’t perform a favor, ask for one.
#3: Social networking: Harness the power of building networks in social media
Social networking is all about connecting with like-minded folks on social media. It is clearly the easiest way of adapting hybrid networking into your life. Go from joining communities to connecting over a cup of coffee in one easy platform. With social media, networking effectively becomes a breeze as you are already on a platform full of like-minded individuals marketing their products and services or searching for them.
Most entrepreneurs would naturally think of LinkedIn when it comes to social media networking, which is a great platform to connect and contact other business owners on. But don’t just stop there! Check out these other 4 recommendations for starting your social network:
On that note, don’t forget to keep your online presence updated on these platforms. For instance, if you’ve been inactive for some time, consider waiting a few weeks before networking. In the meantime, try being more active in your postings to boost your account activity and presence. This will greatly help you when connecting with others!
#4: Connect with alumni clubs
For most of us, years and thousands of dollars were spent pursuing a university education — so why not make the most out of it?
Joining your alma mater’s alumni clubs is a great way to network, especially for new entrepreneurs. Members of these networks already share a commonality with you by attending the same university, so they’d have a greater understanding of the type of experiences you’ve received in your journey to entrepreneurship. Besides just connecting you to opportunities, they also serve as a valuable resource for insights to grow your business.
Not sure where to begin? Alumni clubs often have official websites or groups on social media platforms to connect. Here are some of the common ones in Singapore and Hong Kong:
- SG: NUS Alumni Club
- SG: NTU Alumni Club
- HK: Hong Kong University Alumni Association
- HK: The Chinese University of Hong Kong Alumni
Pro tip: Consider volunteering for your alma mater committee! Alumni associations are constantly on the lookout for volunteers so this will be a great opportunity to get your foot in the door if you have the time.
#5: Join incubator and accelerator network meetings
Incubators and accelerators are a start-up’s best friend. As such, it will be highly beneficial to consider signing up for the mailing lists of top incubators and accelerators in the region. Doing so may grant you access to the latest resources, meetings, and networking events that could be your gateway to a new networking community.
If you’re not sure where to start, we’ve got you covered! Check out our free downloadable guide that features a comprehensive list of accelerator and incubator programmes in Singapore, Hong Kong, and Southeast Asia.
#6: Be authentic
Last but not least, be authentic! This is perhaps the most understated rule when it comes to networking effectively. People can sense inauthenticity from a mile away and be immediately put off from there. After that, it’s like fighting a losing battle.
Here is how it works:
- Think of networking as just a series of simple conversations. Find a common topic of interest and let the conversation flow naturally.
- Remember that conversation is a two-way street — you want to be the talker and listener. Discover more about the other person without monopolizing too much of the conversation; listen to their responses made and build on them.
- If you find yourself joining in on a conversation, find out how you can meaningfully add without disrupting the dynamic.
- Don’t focus on the big sales pitch or business propositions. Networking, at its core, is about developing relationships to garner potential favor in the long run.
3 Things to Watch Out for While Networking
Networking is more than meeting like-minded individuals. It is about finding potential opportunities in the conversation that meaningfully develop a connection. Always keep the following in mind:
- Networking is not selling. Effective networkers work on identifying opportunities that could help to meet the needs of the other, often through referrals as opposed to sales. Simply put, effective networking makes the recipient excited to follow up after your initial contact.
- Networking is not just for extroverts. Contrary to popular belief, introverts can excel at networking too — sometimes even more than their extroverted counterparts. But regardless of where you may fall on the spectrum, know that everyone can be proficient in networking. What matters most is being receptive to others, and following up on intent.
- Networking is not a waste of time. Some entrepreneurs prefer to let their business numbers speak for themselves. After all, if you’ve been doing well so far, why bother attending social events? This is simply not true as there are immense intangible benefits that come with networking with the right people. From soliciting advice, referrals, and connections, networking the right way just might be the key element to taking your business even further.
Starting your business on the right foot
The art of networking is essential to doing business and taking it to the next level. As we enter a new era for businesses, its importance cannot be understated as we continue on the road to success.
Get your business started on the right foot and let Sleek help you along your business journey. From registering a company, opening a business account to managing your bookkeeping and accounting, we’re dedicated to helping you grow your business.