Let’s face it, you either really love networking or you pretty much hate it, it’s seldom that you find those that are in-between. As someone who networks often (read: practically 24/7), I’ve realized to be effective you’ve got to treat networking like a hustle- it’s all about strategy, genuity, and opportunity.
“How you going to get another chance tomorrow,
I don’t hustle like that,
I hustle like there’s
There’s not a second left.
You know there’s tomorrow,
I’m hustlin’ like there’s only one more second left of this hustle.” — Workin’ Remix x Puff Daddy and the Family
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again — I want to bring the “Diddy Mentality” into all of my entrepreneurial ventures. He gets it, he understands the power of hustle, the importance of network, and the need to “put on for the culture.” He hustles like there’s no tomorrow, he has a powerful network, and knows how to navigate a crowd, find connections, and create value.
With that being said, I love to #DiddyBop my way through a networking event. I even described one of my “natural habitats” on posted on my Instagram this past week — in essence, it’s simply networking and meeting other passion pursuers.
So I’ll cut to the chase, check out five of my secrets on how to network like a boss.
(1) LEAVE YOUR BUSINESS CARDS AT HOME.
I recently ran out of business cards, to be honest I used to give my business cards out like candy; solely based on traditional and transactional “old way of networking.” I recently made the decision not to restock my business cards because the use of business cards is now against my my new “networking beliefs,” I’m extra I get it.
If you read my previous post, I Don’t Want Your Business Card, you probably get it — one of the most impactful networking strategies is the concept of initiating a relationship; that is, finding a commonality or interest and building off of that — in that exact moment — rather than exchanging information and hoping that interest is developed after the follow up email you send that the recipient isn’t planning on reading.
I promise you there’s a subconscious power of pulling out your phone and saving someone’s contact info or following them on Instagram on the spot. If you’re struggling with this eco-friendly, cost-saving transition to a business-card-free-life; try the SwitchIt App which serves as a unique mobile business card (no more fumbling through your wallet trying to find your bent up business cards).
(2) LISTEN MORE THAN YOU TALK.
More often than not, there’s an 112% chance that I have an opinion on whatever it is that you’re talking about — there is also a great chance that I’m not going to give you that opinion unless you ask for it or it feels warranted. I’d argue that networking is the art of listening, and responding with value.
If I’m at a networking event and I approach you; it is because I want to hear what you have to say or I think I may have something valuable to offer. One of the biggest challenges I see with new-age networking, is we talk too much. When networking aim to listen more than you talk. Now I don’t have my iPhone timer out during networking events, but I am to contribute 30–40% of the conversation.
“Why are you using all these percentages, Brandon?” Is probably what you’re thinking — the answer, no idea. I’ve just found that by listening to others talk more, the more impactful my statements and ideas are when I provide them, it also allows me to steer the conversation tactfully
(3) ASK WHY, THEN ASK WHY AGAIN.
Like the two-year old sitting in the backseat during a family road-trip, ask, “Why?” as much as possible when networking. You’ll probably feel as if you’re being annoying (and you might be), but in all honesty, probing for more information has bore the most fruit when it comes to my personal networking experiences. Here are some of the top reasons why you should be asking, “Why?”
- It causes the person you’re networking with to think deeply about what it is that they are doing, why they’re passionate, and what their needs are.
- Remember, “listening more than you talk,” this is an easy way to get others talking.
- It’s best to be genuinely interested in what the other party has to say while networking, but if you’re not — this is a great way to pretend. (Don’t judge me).
- Great knowledge is at the core of innovation and game-changing ideas, the more you know the more power you have to leverage your new network.
(4) FIND THE EXCHANGE.
“All I try to do is build the maximum value.” — Diddy
We have to get out of the habit of networking for the sake of “knowing a lot of people,” and get into the habit of networking for the sake of “knowing a lot of people with value.” I don’t have enough digits to count how many times I’ve met someone at networking events, and they don’t even ask what I do.
As a brand, it’s important to always know your strengths, weaknesses, and needs at all times. When it comes to networking it should be a goal to find exchanges — finding others and opportunities that can help compensate for your weaknesses, help satisfy your needs, or those who find value in your strengths.
(5) CONGRATULATE, APPRECIATE, INTEGRATE, COLLABORATE.
If you’re an avid reader of some of my blog posts, you know I like to give some real-life, proven, strategies that work for me time and time again — well here is your moment. I’m about to give you, “A Million Dollars’ worth of networking game for Free.99.” If you need to remember something while you’re networking — remember CAIC (pronounced CAKE), that is Congratulate, Appreciate, Integrate, Collaborate.
- Congratulate — We feed off of compliments and words of affirmation. If you want to make someone feel good (and want them to like you) you have to “flirt” a little bit. Note: Don’t lie and say something is a great idea when you don’t believe it. One of my easy compliments is, “Congrats on all of your recent accomplishments!” (Now if I’ve said that to you before, please don’t feel some type of way).
- Appreciate — One of my pet peeves is when I’m telling someone what it is that I do or something that I’ve worked on, and their response is clearly indicative of them not paying attention to a single word that I said. Acknowledge that you are paying attention by showing appreciation for the work that they are doing and what it is that they’re telling you.
- Integrate — Now here is what makes the great networkers stand out from the good ones. To really show your value you have to integrate your strengths or resources into the work that they are doing. Maybe you have connections that would be beneficial, a previous experience that could help, or even just a common passion. The goal here is to make them feel as if they need you in order to fuel their future success.
- Collaborate — If you’ve integrated successfully this piece should be a breeze, when you’re wrapping up your conversation always, always, always propose a way that you can collaborate in the future. If you don’t you’re wasting a huge opportunity. This can be anything small like a “pick your brain” call, or something huge like an event or initiative you can collaborate on.
After you hit all of the aspects of CAIC, exchange contacts and walk away before you mess up all of your progress.
Below is a paraphrased conversation that I recently had at a networking event, see if you can find all of the elements of CAIC in the conversation.
ME: “Yo, man! I just saw you were featured in some recent campaigns based on your clothing brand launch; that’s huge, congrats man.”
THEM: “Thanks, man that means a lot. I’ve been pretty stressed recently getting all of my ducks in a row for the launch of our new line and new products. But let me not complain, I know you’ve been busy as hell too.”
ME: “True that I’ve been super busy myself. It’s crazy how most people fail to realize all of the work we have to put in behind the scenes, you do a great job of making it look effortless though, so kudos. What made you start this new line by the way?
THEM: “I really just like putting out positive messages, I used to make these shirts for myself and I would always get compliments on them and folks would stop and ask where they could get one. The rest was history. I’m still struggling with finding a solid printer though.”
ME: “Man! Say that again, that’s exactly why I started creating, Be Great Gear, I realized how the simple message was changing others’ outlooks. I know of a great Black-owned company that I use for my printing, if you’re interested I can do an email introduction? “
THEM: “I would love that, I appreciate it man, so what’s next for you.”
ME: “It’s funny you ask that, I really want to start getting into pop up shops, and really getting more involved in the community and not pure e-commerce, I actually had a DOPE idea of collaborating with other Black-owned brands with positive messaging — you’re one of the first companies I thought about reaching out to.”
Do you have any secrets for successful networking? Let me know in the comments, be sure to hit the ♥, too! Now I’ll stop bothering you so you can get to (net)WORKIN.