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Question: “I’m an entrepreneur in the beauty space looking to connect with potential distributors in Asia. I attend networking events pretty often but feel like my efforts aren’t yielding significant results. Do you have any tips on how I can be more successful with networking?”

I’ve learned that one of the fundamental aspects of successful networking for entrepreneurs is being intentional about what you want to get out of it and who, precisely, you want to connect with.

“Networking is an active process, not a passive one – and it’s a really important skill to develop as an entrepreneur.” – Nancy Twine

1. Set Clear Intentions and Be Proactive

Let’s start with the importance of being intentional about networking and how it can make all the difference in building the right network and maximizing your valuable time. For example, before I decide to attend an industry event, I ask myself, “What do I want to get out of it?” If networking is the answer, then I go deeper:  “What do I need from networking exactly?” Let’s say the response to that question is: “I need to network to expand my distribution contacts in Asia.” Once I’ve honed in on the “what”, then I can actively research the attendee list and figure out who in the room might be most relevant to my need so that I can optimize my time at the event and ensure I get in front of the people that will be most helpful to bridging my network gap.

If you can’t access an attendee list or can’t extract who from the list will be most helpful to you, then having an intention is still important. This may mean you end up starting conversations with random people, with the intention of sharing a bit about yourself and why you’re at the event (to expand my network of distributors in Asia). I often find that even when I share my needs and intentions with people who can’t directly help me, oftentimes they know someone who can. Being intentional about what you need and being proactive about putting yourself out there are two of the most critical steps to forming an impactful network.

2. Be Genuine and Offer to Help Others

Going up to people you don’t know and kicking off a conversation can be intimidating, but one thing I remind myself of – especially if I’m at an event – is that part of being at an event is to socialize. When you show up as your genuine self and approach people who give off a welcoming energy, you’d be surprised by how willing people are to connect and converse with you.  

To enhance your success at building a meaningful conversion, be sure to listen more than you talk and show a genuine interest in the other person. Be mindful not to come across as if you have an agenda or if you’re only interested in having a one-way conversation. Networking requires a level of self-awareness that helps create a comfortable connection with healthy give and take. Networking is a two-way street and I always recommend asking how you can help someone else in your effort to get your own needs met.

3. Always Follow Up

Once you’ve made the connection with someone who is valuable to your network, it’s all about maintaining the dialogue. Exchange information so that you can send a follow up note or schedule time to connect further. New relationships take time to build, so be mindful to stay in contact to keep the connection active over time.

You may find that following up with someone who has a very busy lifestyle may result in a non-response. If this is the case, I’d follow up a few more times in a low-pressure way. If you still don’t get a response, it may be that the person may just be too busy to forge new relationships at this time, which is completely normal and doesn’t indicate that the person doesn’t want to connect with you. They just may not have the time right now.

Being intentional, proactive, self-aware and flexible are all important aspects of successfully building a solid network over time. Keep putting yourself out there and make the effort to connect with the right people in the right environment. You’ll begin forging impactful relationships that can help support your entrepreneurial journey in so many important ways.

If you have any questions for me, feel free to submit them in the Ask Nancy section.