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This article is going to aim at Entrepreneurs.  But in reality, all the concepts transfer to the other categories on The Borough – civic leaders, cultural creatives, and church planters, as well.  Everyone should be networking, because it encourages creativity, collaboration, and the sharing of resources.  Everybody flourishes when you network well.

lots of hipstersA lot of these principles come from a really great blog and podcast called Unmarketing.  I highly recommend it (and no, he’s not paying us to say so).  You also ought to check out this classic, which was highly instrumental in my thinking about networking – How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.

But more importantly, a lot of these principles come from the Bible.  Yeah.  God knew what He was doing.  Check out this past article for more information about business principles found in the Proverbs.

As an entrepreneur, you literally can’t run a business without networking.  You need to do it to build brand recognition and a customer base, and to find high quality vendors and sources of education.  It’s obviously extremely important.

But so many people do it so poorly.  In the past, I’ve personally been that guy who just made you cringe at networking events.  Please, please, please, learn from my mistakes!

#God knew what He was doing. Click To Tweet

These are a few principles which will help you as you make connections with other people:

Make it about Them

When you meet someone, the temptation is to begin talking about yourself and your product.  After all, you’ve got something really amazing, right?

But someone who just talks about themselves ends up coming across as selfish and self-involved.

Spend the majority of your interaction with a person asking them about their product, their life, their experiences.  Ask open-ended questions to give them the opportunity to answer it however they like.

This might seem counter-intuitive.  If you are trying to make a connection to benefit your business, it seems like you should spend time helping people to understand your business, right?

But the goal of networking is not using the 300 seconds you have with them to boost your product.  It’s about building a relationship, which brings me to my next point.

Focus on Building Relationships

sleepingHave you ever met that guy who runs around handing out business cards almost before even introducing himself?

The whole time you’re talking with him, you notice that he’s constantly scanning the room to see who else he can drop his bomb on.  He’s not paying attention to you, nor does he care about you.  He only cares about what you can offer him.

Yeah, don’t be that guy.

Build a relationship with people as you network.  It is so much better if someone likes you, because instead of having 5 minutes to explain your product, you might have 5 years of friendship in which you will have plenty of opportunity to explain your business.

Build a relationship with people as you #network. #business Click To Tweet

Here are some tips to starting a relationship in the initial contact:

  • Ask a lot of open-ended questions, as explained in the section above.
  • Find what they are passionate about and begin probing into their interest.  Don’t worry about finding something in common.  It’s about the other person at this point, remember?  So let them talk.
  • Use their name.  Often.  And remember it for later.  This shows that you genuinely cared enough to force their name and their story into your memory bank.
  • Stand up straight, man.  And look them in the eye.  Show them that you’re confident, but more importantly, show them that you’re engaged in what they’re saying.
  • After, and only after, not before, never before, the conversation is coming to an end and you’ve made a quality personal contact, offer to exchange contact information.
  • Finally, for the love of everything which is good, FOLLOW UP!  Send them an email the next day thanking them for the great conversation.  And let the relationship blossom from there.

Put Yourself Out There

You can’t network by talking about how awesome it would be if you met such and such.  Then, you’d really be able to get your business going.

Get out there and make things happen.  Man up (or woman up) and go meet people.  Yeah, it’s a risk, and yeah, it’s uncomfortable.  But ya gotta do it or you’ll end up only talking about how awesome things could be.

I met a guy this week, who 8 years ago decided to just walk right into the headquarters of Relevant Magazine and introduce himself.  He’s now their top consultant for IT and he runs all their servers.

Just walked right in.  Ballsy, right?

Participate in the Community

Helping HomelessThis is one of the most important things you can do.  Not only because it often brings you in contact with people you never thought you’d meet, but also because this one also serves an avenue to love your neighbors, which Jesus told us to do anyway.

So donate toward a community event.  Volunteer for it.  Offer your services at free or discounted rates for the event.

Put up a garden on your property and participate in the farmer’s market.

Partner with non-profits to meet a need in the community.

Check out this article for more information about businesses participating in the community.

Build a Network for Christ’s Sake

I promise, that section headline is not meant to be disrespectful.  I mean it literally – do it for Christ, and no one else.

As you build a network, your business will grow.  And you’ll have more resources to serve the church and to serve the community.

Your business is an asset to taking care of the city, to loving your neighbors.  So network with passion for the sake of Christ.

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