These points are extracted from my upcoming book The Anxious Entrepreneur.
I’m just not a good networker. I envy guys who have the skill to speak to just anyone, like my good friend Paseka Kalaku. I suck at introducing myself to lots of people at an event.
What is to follow is how a mediocre networker like me manages more than just manage at networking.
The other night I was in Rosebank , I bumped into a good guy by the name Suede. This dude is a great connector. After greeting him I wondered why I felt gratitude towards him. I remembered that he once referred my then clothing label ‘gabble heights’ to participate in an African Fashion International event, without him knowing me personally then. The mileage from that event was awesome.
I guess Maya Angelou was right when she said: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
He added value to me and I’m forever grateful, and I’m sure in the future I can add value to him too.
With having the concept of adding value in mind, let’s go to the next part…
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I’m sure you attend a lot of networking events with the aim of attracting good contacts. And you want to collect a lot of business cards, 7 to 10 or more, right?
When you get home you do email these folks, just to say hi or whatever. How many do reply? Not a lot a right? All that effort! It hurts.
A mentor of mine keeps saying you know you have made it when you don’t reply to all emails. I guess he is talking about mails from guys like me or you.
It’s ok. Here is something that I do and is working well for me in growing my network. I don’t make it a point to collect a lot of business cards or meet everyone at an event, 5 cards are ok. I make it a point to get into a bit detailed conversations with these 5 people.
A good conversation is one where you are listening, asking questions, probing, and giving advice if suitable. Everyone likes to talk about themselves. So that’s easy.
When I get home, I look at each card, think who I can link this person with – so they both can benefit from each other or maybe even do business together. I don’t have to gain financially. Or I try helping them get a solution to their challenge which they told me of at the event.
So, the best way I grow my network is I try to add value to whoever I invite in it. These people will know me as a person of value, and will refer me to others as a person with value.
I have noticed that some of the best relationships I enjoy are those where I added a bit of value, without it being asked for. And, some good people I lost, are those whom I persistently only took from.
I don’t need to introduce myself to 100 people at one event; I just have to add value to my current network and think creatively of how to add value to whoever I want to invite in it.
Once you add value to someone, they will ever feel gratitude towards you.