Google searching people and companies is easy, but does it always land you a client or a piece of business?
Just because more and more information is freely available online does not necessarily mean that business has gotten easier.
In fact, in some ways, it’s become more challenging. Indeed, the term “networking” has evolved beyond simply making connections to people and using the standard “it’s who you know” formula.
Today’s successful entrepreneurs and business professionals recognize the importance of standing out from the crowd by delivering a unique value proposition in an environment where they command the attention of those they wish.
Let’s go over a few business networking tips that might seem tried and true, but need a refresh in today’s ever-changing and challenging business environment.
A no-brainer in any discussion of how to network online is to create a LinkedIn profile and use the network to find business opportunities.
While a LinkedIn profile is often thought of as a digital resume — and no doubt, it still very much is — users of the network aren’t always looking for people and they almost always are not looking to make a purchase once they sign on.
Instead, users are looking for news and information that might be useful for them. The content of the newsfeed is presented based on keywords, algorithms and other data that the user had previously engaged with.
As such, if you want to catch certain users’ interest, in order to be a part of that engagement, you will need to share articles or comments on articles that you feel would be valuable to the people you wish to engage with.
This can be time-consuming, but after a while, if you present a credible, authoritative point of view, the people you want to engage with will take notice.
Another tip: Instead of just asking to connect with strangers you wish to do business with, use LinkedIn’s Follow feature instead. This is a more subtle way of showing that prospect that you are interested in what they have to say without aggressively wishing to connect with them in order to sell them something.
Another networking tip centers on live interactions: How and where will you meet to discuss the opportunity you wish to sell?
Long before the pandemic, virtual meetings and interactions had been on the rise, largely due to cost. As more businesses became comfortable with meeting online, videoconferencing and webinars were met with less resistance.
However, in a widely referenced statistic, uncovered by marketing software company HubSpot, 95% of people agree that better business relationships are built through face-to-face meetings.
This is understandable, given the surge in virtual interactions. As quantity increases, quality often suffers. Online meetings with participants on mute or with their cameras off cannot provide the same level of value that a face-to-face meeting can, in which participants are almost forced to interact and engage.
Regardless of delivery method, as often there is no choice of channel through which the meeting will take place, entrepreneurs and client-facing business professionals are finding that live connections need to deliver more value.
Walking the walk is nothing compared to talking the talk: Business professionals need to demonstrate competency. Further, in a competitive, hybrid offline/online world, such professionals also need to stand out from others who might be presenting essentially the same thing.
This is the hard part. Entrepreneurs and business professionals need to think much more deeply and creatively about how their skill sets, products or services are distinct from what might typically be found within the same networking circles.
While challenging, this exercise delivers a hidden benefit. By thinking more extensively about how to distinguish oneself from others, an entrepreneur can come up with new product use cases or extensions, or explore a market that was not originally intended. In this way, the business will benefit.
Business networking has moved beyond the importance of connecting with the largest number of people possible. With everyone having the ability to introduce themselves to thousands of people for free online, entrepreneurs and business professionals need a way to stand out.
The challenge lies in presenting one’s value or ability to solve that other person’s needs. Demonstrating depth of knowledge and creativity of solutions, along with empathy and helpfulness, will pave the way for business success.
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