The power of networking, a cheeky parrot and being inspired
August 7, 2014
If there is a simple truth that many entrepreneurs, sales and marketing and business development managers know it’s this “networking and making connections is the key to success”. You could even argue that politicians, like sales people, hone this magic little truth to perfection when convincing voters to back them at election time.
That said for the simple truth to become effective you need to be somewhere where others have converged and so it was last night here in Sydney, Australia an incredible group of business leaders, start-ups, entrepreneurs and large corporate brands came together to listen, learn, network and connect. The event was via New Zealand’s expatriate network called KEA (for those not in the know Kea is a very cheeky parrot indigenous to New Zealand) and hosted by several members of Google’s leadership team in Australia; Richard Suhr and Kevin Ackhurst and it was my privilege to talk to the gathered crowd as a member of the New Zealand’s World Class Network on the subject of entrepreneurship.
The theme of the night was “inspire” and so I wanted to focus my address on the journey I had taken from the time I started my first business back when I was a little over ten years old to where I am now and my plans for the future. Richard Suhr from Google (and a fellow New Zealander) gave a really insightful address about Google and how they go about developing ideas and the very business approach they take to getting things right in both a development and launch sense.
From my side I focussed on the “7 things I would tell my teenage self about entrepreneurship” and instead of going through all of the detail you can check that out HERE and download the presentation HERE.
However, I wanted to focus more in this article on the central tenant of the night which was all about networking and making connections and some quick tips:
Ok I’m going to say this straight away: if you are not able to network then you won’t be able to reach your full potential.
Why? Because you can be one of two types of personality types I like to use when describing entrepreneurs:
· The constant networker
· The constant emailer
A “constant networker” is someone who recognises the key to success is to get out there and physically beat the drum when it comes to selling, pitching or promoting their product or brand.
Sure, they use the same sort of sales and marketing techniques that many others do when starting up a business for the first time such as email newsletters and building audience engagement on social media, or using professional networking groups such as LinkedIn.But they also recognise the importance of the physical and face to face interaction between them and a potential buyer. You see, the great thing about networking and having face to face or physical interactions with potential clients is because the more you know about someone and the more they know about you in a buyer and seller relationship the more probable it becomes that you will in fact make a sale.
The “constant emailer” is the person who relies on this flawed thinking that somehow that just by selling through email shots and newsletters alone that people will be naturally drawn to you. In actual fact, research shows that we tune out rather than tune in when we get sales and marketing oriented emails because well, we just get so much.
The “constant emailer” also believes that by building an online presence that will also be enough to create noise and generate interest in the brand, product or idea.That in itself is flawed for the same reason as that whole notion of “if you build it they will come”. Some of the biggest failures of really great ideas came when the entrepreneur involved thought people would just naturally be driven to buy because they built it.The truth is there is a third person – and this is the secret to networking – of utilising both the physical and online world to create touch, association and recognition of whatever it is you want to sell.
I call this person the “ultimate entrepreneur”.
But you know what, networking is not for everyone and some people are afraid of standing up in public to give a presentation or even just meeting someone else. Remember when we are at school (unless of course you still are) and there was that image of the boys standing at one of the room, the girls at the other all afraid to ask for the first dance (and yes my disco days are well behind me)?
So here are some tips if you are one of those people who find it hard to get out and about (and no it doesn’t involve being like Raj on “Big Bang Theory” needing to get loaded on booze before you can open your mouth):
Confidence and the mirror test: always imagine having a conversation with a potential buyer and ask yourself would I buy from this person? Start by simply having a conversation with them about nothing in particular – don’t jump into the sell straight away. Take stock of the environment around you and possibly have a few conversation starters ready to go. They could be random about the weather or the latest news or politics – practice in front of the mirror before you hit the road.
Never go to opening of envelopes: what do I mean by an opening of an envelope? Just because it may make sense to try and go to every event in town you don’t want to end up looking like the usual suspect who is seen at everything for no reason at all. Target the events or gatherings you attend that will be meaningful to you and check out who the potential audience will be. Remember, it is a time and money investment for you to attend things so make sure you know you will go in with a return.
Know your product or idea back to front: many people think they know clearly what they are selling but are often caught off guard when they realise that the questions they get from people or folk they find themselves in conversation with they hadn’t thought about before. Be prepared and by being prepared you will be confident.
There is no doubt that networking and building brand in the online world is fundamentally important but when matched with the networking that occurs in the traditional sense you do take yourself to another level and that’s the key.
Thats why networks such as KEA are so important - network, connect and be inspired.
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