I am an introvert. I don’t like interacting with people. Let me rephrase: I prefer not to interact with other people or much of the world outside of myself. I find my energy comes from within. Extroverts get their energy from the external world. They thrive on interaction with the world. This is not me, and maybe it’s not you either. But, I am an entrepreneur. I started a business, and that means I have a service that I provide to the world. But the world cannot possibly interact with me and my business unless I interact with it. Enter networking (shudder).
Now for anyone who is not a huge fan of large gatherings, putting all your cards on the table, or feeling vulnerable, the idea of having to rely on others for your own success is probably a bit frightening at the least, and maybe frustrating at worst. And it is. Why can’t we all just co exist in our own little bubbles and never have to interact with each other? Why so much touching, and overlapping, and interdependence? Well, for one, people as a species can accomplish a lot more together than apart. That’s the very definition of society and how it works. And second, the horse analogy:
But the world cannot possibly interact with me and my business unless I interact with the world. Enter networking
The Whole is Greater
A draft horse is a category of horses that lend themselves to incredible strength. Think Clydesdales. It is rumored that one of these horses alone can pull 9000 lbs. But when you yoke the two horses together, their capacity increases not just to 18,000 lbs but to 35,000 lbs. That’s the power of teamwork or true synergy. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Now as an efficient entrepreneur, and especially a budding solopreneur, the idea of creating a team can be daunting. But remember, team doesn’t have to be people you sit next to in an office every day. The whole world is on your team. You just have to know how to leverage all of their strengths to increase your collective impact. How do you do that? Networking. And for the introvert, I have compiled 6 easy strategies to network your ass off, and grow the capacity of your business. Follow these steps and you will find that business opportunities will be knocking at your door.
6 Ways to Network Your Ass Off
1.Know Your Value Proposition
This one sounds simple, but is usually the one that gives people the most trouble. If you don’t know what about you or your service that makes you stand out, you are going to have a hard time making others understand that quality. Knowing your value proposition is a process of understanding your strengths, weaknesses, and most importantly, your values. I like to call it your life’s thesis.
If you come to the end of your life and someone was to ask you what your lived for, what will you say?
If you come to the end of your life and someone was to ask you what your lived for, what will you say? What have you done? What value did you bring? And how did you do it? Why did you do it? These are not easy questions to be taken lightly. They require a good deal of introspection (yay introverts) in order to come to reliable answers. Part of it is writing out your greatest achievements. Another is identifying your core values or rules to live by. And the final third is understanding what activities bring you joy and fulfillment. This step is so important, that all of my clients start their coaching relationship with me by taking a High Tides Assessment so we can unpack the answers to these questions in detail.
2. Nail Your Perfect Pitch
Once you are clear about what you bring to the table. The next step is to be able to clearly articulate that concept to others. You have to feel comfortable enough about what you bring and how you bring it, that when someone asks you “what do you do?” you can make your life’s work sound compelling, intriguing, and worthy of further inquiry. This means you can pitch better than a PSA. To do that, your response to that question has to be thorough, memorable, and above all concise.
The best business people I know can make me feel the power of their work, and mission in 60 seconds or less. The last thing you want is your work to be forgettable. One way to master your pitch is to take advantage of the Pitch Better than a PSA workshop or you can request a workshop for your community. I sometimes send out primers for this exercise to the mailing list so make sure you are signed up to receive the Friday Freebies.
3. Get Real
This one is all about getting comfortable in your own skin. Nobody knows everything, and as an entrepreneur that’s valuable information. But, sometimes, especially when we are running a solopreneur business, it can be scary to admit
when we don’t know something. What’s even scarier is not getting the help we need because we were too afraid to admit that we needed it in the first place. Networking starts when we can admit that we need other people to help us make the impact we want to make. This means, boldly owning our strengths and our weaknesses.
I am a Strengthsfinder advocate, so I will tell you now, that you should be focused on getting better at what you are good at. Delegate everything else. This means, getting a VA, leveraging tools like Fiverr, and hiring contractors to fill in the gaps til you can hire a team to stick to your side. What this also means is, you show up as your real self all the time. This keeps you open to opportunities to find other professionals who complement you perfectly. When you are fake, you are a poor fit for collaborators because of your own misrepresentation. But when you get real honest about who you are, what you are about, and what you need, it’s amazing how the universe conspires for your success, and brings you just what you need at just the right time.
get real and watch the universe conspire for your success
4. FU is for Follow Up
This one is critical. Don’t go through all the trouble of knowing your value, perfecting your pitch, and putting yourself out there, only to have a one night stand conversations. No, I don’t mean sleeping with people at networking events. I am talking about exchanging business cards, finding synergy with your solopreneur soul mate at a meetup, and then never sending the email, setting up the coffee date or reaching out with a zoom link to continue the conversation. After you meet someone amazing, the next step is to keep talking to them, and figuring out how you can help each other. Best practices? I have a few:
- Send a thank you email immediately after connecting with someone new (within 48 hours).
- Schedule a meeting for sometime in the next 4 days to speak at length. Try to get this on the calendar before you leave their presence or via email correspondence (see number 1).
- Get them into your LinkedIn network ASAP. LinkedIn now has a “find nearby” feature which when turned on, allows you to find others who are in your vicinity instantly (when they turn it on too). This is a great way to connect with those 9 other people sitting at your table at that industry event. Link them right away, and then send a quick message about how you want to continue the conversation with them. ie “Hey its Marie from the NJ Womens Summit. Let’s get together soon and talk about about support for the mompreneur struggle”. And if they aren’t active on LinkedIn, see number 1. If you aren’t active on LinkedIn, you should start working on that ASAP. It may be a foreign platform to you now, but in 5 minutes a day, LinkedIn can be a great asset.
- Get them on your email list. If you are doing your thing when it comes to online marketing, you already know that you should have an opt in on your website. Tell people to whip out that smart phone and get on your list, grab the free download, or schedule a consult. And have them do it, while you are standing there guiding them through ever so gently. This works great if you actually have something of value that they need in that moment, ie “What? You’re not on LinkedIn? I have a quick primer on how to learn LinkedIn in 5 minutes on my site. . .here, let me show you, . . . where’s your phone?”
- Use a CRM. Now this one is more specific to business to customer relationships, not business to business. But if you meet your perfect client avatar while you are out and about, not only should you get them in your email queue right away, but you also have to keep following up with them. This means after the initial email (see step 1) you are also following up in a few days (try 5 business days) with a tickler. Still no bites? Then 3 days after that send another reminder that you really want to help them.
It can be tricky to remember a sequence of follow ups, which is where a good tool like Hubspot’s free CRM (client relationship manager) can work wonders to help you automate follow ups and track when you connected with people. Keep people engaged, and don’t be discouraged if they don’t respond right away. People have busy lives, and surprise they don’t revolve around you. Silence isn’t always a no. Often it’s a not right now. Give them space and then come back another time. And CRM helps you remember when that other time should be.
5. Make tech a teammate
When you are employee number one, and living your best solopreneur life, you learn quickly that you cannot duplicate yourself. But, you can leverage technology to work for you to free up some time. That’s working smarter. Tech that helps me network include Hubspot, and my automated email sequence (Mailchimp) for working with clients.
For connecting with collaborators and other businesses on the go, I have the LinkedIn app on my phone (a must), bit.ly short links for scheduling appointments with me that can be texted to anyone I meet ASAP, and I use an automatic scheduler ( Acuity) so I don’t have to deal with the back and forth of scheduling follow up chats. “Just grab a time that works for you and we can connect over zoom”. And yes, my calendar is integrated with my videoconferencing software. Folks pick a time slot, and get conference room credentials all at the same time, and then it all gets put on my calendar. like. magic. BOOM!
I like to set mini goals for myself before events: “I’m going to hand out 3 business cards in this session. I’m going to connect with 4 new people.”
6. Show Up At Your Best
This is beyond dress to impress. When you are showing up as your best, your inside is more important than your outside. Your stylish coif and dapper digs may get them walking your way, but it’s what’s going on between your ears that keeps people engaged. That means you need to get your mind right before you walk out the door each day. If you haven’t nailed your morning routine yet, there’s no time like the present.
Taking a moment to meditate daily or just setting an intention for each networking opportunity that you put yourself in, is a win. I like to set mini goals for myself before meetings and events. “I’m going to hand out 3 business cards in this session. I’m going to connect with 4 new people. I’m going to find one woman who I vibe well with.” Make those goals specific and attainable so you don’t burn out. SMART goals aren’t just for annual reviews. You can have them for meeting new people and creating opportunity for you and your business every day.
Network In Action
So there you have it. My 6 step strategy to get out in the world networking for your business. Now, I know most of this will feel kind of scary if you aren’t “that person”. But the good news is 1) you can decide who you want to be every moment to moment of your life and 2) I got your back if you want to reach out for reinforcements. Drop a note in the comments, shoot me an email or hit me up for a free consult about your sitch, and we can strategize your networking plan together.