We live in an age where success in business is synonymous with being a successful networker. Whether online or in-person, for prospecting, new development deals, or career moves, we must—for better or worse—rely on connections to get a foot in the door or a receptive ear.
But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Yes, it makes “breaking in”—whether into an industry, a company, or a new client—more difficult at the beginning of our careers, it also means that every time we’re successful, we’ve primed ourselves to be successful again (and to have an easier time doing it) in the future.
But how do we do it? How do we take maximal advantage of the time we spend on LinkedIn and Twitter, of the late nights we devote to networking events, meetups, and the like? We could, of course, go on gut, blundering our way through and learning from our mistakes. And yes, that is a part of finding your “personal” style of networking.
But to get to the bones of it—and make sure we’re setting up good habits from the get-go—we can also look to the experts. The people dominating sales and marketing. The people every social marketer tries to connect with, every BDR tries to sell. Those people who have already been massively successful in their networking endeavors.
We interviewed some of the top influencers in sales and marketing, and this is how they suggest you network.
Tips from Top Influencers on Absolutely Crushing It at Networking
Chart a Course from Social Interaction to In-Person Meeting.
“Personally, I use social to get visible, valuable, and connected to my potential buyers to start the networking process. I leverage hashtags from Twitter conferences [to get] insight into the people [I want to connect with in person]. Then, through conferences, [I] connect the social networking I’ve done to the person [I want to meet]. Leveraging the 2 together is a powerful thing. It’s the proactive-then-reactive way to network in the digital age.”
– Jack Kosakowski, Global Head of B2B Social Sales at Creation Agency
Being Helpful Builds a Better Network.
“I’ve never really gone out of my way to network. I never saw it as networking. I don’t troll around events. I’m naturally shy. All I’ve ever done was authentically and honestly try to help. I try to help mainly in two big ways that drive my ability to grow my network both deep AND wide.
The two strategies I live by are: 1) share everything I know and 2) be a facilitator.
By doing each, I’m constantly in a state of meeting people. People come to me for help with sales, with business, when looking for a job, etc., because they know I’ll help. That I’ll share everything I know and connect them with whoever I think will be a good fit. And as my network grows, I get better and better at this. Successfully and politely informing and/or facilitating hires, funding, customers, partnerships, etc. bring people to me, building my network authentically.
If you’re just trying to be well networked, you’ll likely have a shallow network that won’t do much for you and spend a lot of time doing it. Just be helpful. You’ll get a lot further.”
– Max Altschuler, CEO of SalesHacker
Interest and Modesty Create Interest in You
“Influencers who are the best at networking start by setting aside their own egos. They know connecting requires a genuine interest in others’ work plus respect for their expertise.
I attend various industry conferences where experts come together. Some, like The Leadership Challenge®Forum, are high value for networking. People in this group tend to be open, accepting and humble. They attend with a desire to learn from each other. The breadth, depth and quality of my network always grows when I attend this event.
By contrast, at some annual conferences participants preen. Every conversation is a competition. People here work to (over) sell themselves and their products. I typically leave feeling drained, and the networking opportunities are fewer because making simple human-to-human connections is so challenging.
My advice for anyone who wants to network more effectively: Focus on being interested instead of focusing on being interesting. Your other-orientation will facilitate stronger and more sustainable connections.”
– Deb Calvert, Top-50 Social Influencer and Founder of People First Productivity Solutions
Embrace the Inherent Unpredictability of the Universe
“Rule #1 [for networking] is to identify people you want to meet in advance and look for them at events. It’s the standard for meeting people from across the globe in a way that feels both natural and meaningful. Rule #2, however, is a bit different. In my mind, it’s important to encourage and seek serendipity. Go into a room, an event, a restaurant, expecting nothing. Meet new people, have interesting conversations, see where it goes. Networking at events is inherently an imperfect science. Might as well lean into that!”
– Matt Heinz, Heinz Marketing Blog
There are, of course, thousands of ways to network and, like I mentioned earlier, everyone has their preferred style. But to truly get to the top of your networking game, it’s important to consider the successes of the successful. Through their examples, you can create a perfect networking approach that allows for maximum flexibility of both situation and personality.