Networking isn’t something that everyone feels comfortable doing, especially when it’s intended as a client seeking strategy. Approaching strangers with the intention of starting a conversation, especially when it’s aimed towards finding a new, awesome, fabulous, “this is the client of clients”, can be awkward at best. Yet, in the scope of things, it’s not the hardest part of networking.
Finding people to network with, that aren’t part of your normal network, can be a daunting task. Many virtual assistants feel that it’s difficult to identify good networking partners, and this can be a large deterrent for them. As an industry, we tend to also migrate more to the side of introverts on the scale.. and networking is such a dirty word.
Mantra: It’s not networking – it’s all about making relationships.
The benefits of networking
When people comment on the importance of “who you know” they are partially right. There are many opportunities that never make it to the light of day. Many professionals prefer to reduce their risk by contracting someone that has been referred to them via their own network.
It’s important to always use your network as a client seeking strategy. Who should you consider part of your network? Anyone that you have worked with or studied with is a good place to start and anyone you know from your community can be a potential candidate. Friends and family are obvious choices, but don’t forget about people one step out from your obvious network, like vendors.
Anyone familiar with your work and your skills, or even people with common interests, are good candidates. Having them as your advocates can reduce the need to cold call and approach unwilling potential clients.
The need to have a clear plan
Once you’ve made your introductions and gotten some face time with potential networking partners, you need to present the right impression, or they will walk away thinking they have wasted their time. Many don’t go into networking meetings with a plan and this leads to not getting referrals or leads. Having a plan and clear goals will help ensure that you’re taken seriously.
Make sure you have done some good research and are prepared for any conversation. You should have a concise answer for every question. Networking is about communication and you need to be able to engage in interesting, beneficial conversation.