How to Network Without Feeling Uncomfortable
When my wife and I moved to San Diego, I knew exactly seven people living in the city. With a business largely dependent on relationships, I quickly needed to learn how to network.
I needed to “learn” how to network because my previous roles never required networking. One of the companies I worked for had dozens of potential clients per week walk into the office right off the street. As a portfolio manager at the other company, I had the luxury of other advisors developing new business for me.
Business development ran on autopilot.
That changed dramatically when I launched my own firm. From that point forward, business development became one of my top two priorities. Servicing my current clients to the best of my abilities being the other.
As a result, effectively networking became critical. And I’ve realized, despite how intimidating the first few events were, I’ve actually done pretty well so far.
In fact, last night we had the San Diego Chamber of Commerce Christmas party and I enjoyed a moment surrounded by several business owners and ambitious professionals that have quickly become friends over the last year and a half.
I’ll be the first to admit I’ve made plenty of mistakes with the launch of my firm, but I believe I’ve done a solid job of networking in a city where I started with very few contacts.
Below are a few tips that I hope help you with your networking efforts!
The San Diego Chamber of Commerce became the first networking group I joined.
Our group leader, Karyn Stuart, cautioned me upon joining. “Most financial planners come in for a couple of months and leave after not getting any referrals. If you want this group to benefit you, plan to be here at least a year or you’re likely wasting your time.”
Almost a year to the date after joining, I received my first referral. And shortly after my second, and then third.
Fortunately, many of you will experience much faster results. But prepare yourself that building relationships takes time. Consistently showing up and telling your story offers the best way to build quality relationships.
Be curious and stop trying to sell to everyone
Universally, it seems most people dislike networking. I find being curious about business makes networking actually enjoyable. I genuinely love hearing about the different projects and businesses people are working on and building.
If you go to events to hear the stories of other entrepreneurs, you will have amazing conversations.
If you go to events to hand out all of your business cards, you will be avoided at the next event.
There are dozens of you who do this at every event. We all know who you are, and we all try to avoid you.
Stop thinking you are going to sell someone your product or services in an elevator pitch. It’s a networking event – of course the opportunity to discuss your business will come up. Instead, attend from a position of learning about other owners’ efforts without attempting to pitch them. You might just enjoy your time and find that people actually want to spend their time with you.
Be a connector
Being genuinely curious about others’ work provides an additional benefit. You’ll understand who they best serve.
As you listen to more owners describe how their businesses operate, you’ll then uncover who you can connect them with.
Introductions to people that can help move their business forward are incredibly appreciated.
And if you don’t have a rolodex within the city, this ability to connect likely becomes your biggest (only) value add!
Admittedly, I need to do a better job of this myself, but it becomes important to follow up after making an introduction. Find out if the connection proved valuable so that you can ensure you’re making quality introductions. The last thing you want is to have wasted their time.
Be consistent, be curious, be a connector
Reflecting on my experience, I think being new to San Diego helped with networking. I attended events in hopes of meeting interesting people that I’d want to spend more time with.
I understand how this could be different if I had an already established network. Perhaps I would have attended events for the sole intent of finding new business, which ironically, completely turns business away.
Simply being curious and friendly leads to a far superior experience.
I hope you find similar results in 2020!