As with almost every aspect of this world, anything that is new is seen with a skeptical eye. In the business setting, decision makers often cite the reason for dropping a potential vendor, partner, or even an employee, as “it didn’t feel right”, which boils down to trust. However, networking is one of the oldest, yet most effective ways of tackling this problem, even today.
As humans, we are social creatures, and our perception of sincerity comes from non-verbal cues. As per Forbes Insights, 84% of people prefer having face-to-face business meetings for multiple reasons, most of which is to build stronger and meaningful relationships. This remains true even as our world is evolving to become more digitised. Moreover, it has increased the importance of networking events for entrepreneurs and businessmen alike.
Whether you’ve got a great business idea and plan to launch your startup, or great team and credentials to handle better projects, your connections in the market matter most in helping you meet the right people to attain your objective. Needless to say, it is of utmost importance that you develop your connections. However, there is a huge difference between simply networking and building a network.
Simply networking refers to one of the most common mistakes people make, which is to go to a networking event or have conversations online only with the people they think are beneficial for them to sell their services or land a client. Often, in this process, they hard sell their services, and if the other person is not interested, they simply move on to the next.
Building a network, on the other hand, means you develop connections with people you’re chatting with even if they aren’t a prospect. The wisdom behind this, is they may become potential prospects or connect you with one. Every person opens a door to a larger network, which you can leverage towards your goal when the time is right. Successful entrepreneurs understand this and use this mantra in everyday life.
Although, there are certain nuances to get the networking bit right; from portraying a strong personal brand to being courteous and helpful without getting anything immediately in return. Here are a few to get your started on the right track to building your network:
Work on your presence
There are many ways in which you can develop and strengthen your presence to make a memorable impression. A simple way is to sit down with your team of close associates, do proper research into personal branding and your market, and structure your personal brand, detailing how you can portray that to people in different circumstances. Another, is to hire personal branding or professional PR experts to learn and get support, which can help you present yourself better online as well as at a networking event.
Find events to build stronger connections in-person
There are many events that take place across the city that are geared towards business development and networking. Invest time in researching and asking people about different events to know which ones would be most beneficial to you. Dubai Startup Hub, the entrepreneurship arm of Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, runs a series of networking events on a yearly basis with a number of great speakers. If you wish to launch your startup, this is one of the best ones to go to in Dubai during the cooler season.
Social media networking
Heidi Roizen, a master networker in the Silicon Valley, advises to use social media smartly. She recommends to use the network to strengthen your personal brand by putting out content that matters to you, which would help in attracting like-minded connections. She also warns of the false intimacy social media connections can create, saying “Just because someone connects with you on LinkedIn doesn't mean they're your friend.” So approach people professionally, even if they’re in your network and you may know a lot about them.
At the end of the day, networking never really stops. One must always be engaging and connecting with the network on a regular basis to ensure top of mind recall and not miss out on business prospects. Heidi also recommends to always follow up after an in-person meeting and keep your promises if you’ve agreed to do something. Don’t be afraid of putting yourself out there, it is indeed crucial that you do as we live in a world where everything is relationship-driven.