Networking as a solopreneur is really all about developing real relationships while building your business.
Networking can seem so complicated when you are building a business as a solopreneur. There are so many ways to do it. You can network in person or online. You can join referral groups with other entrepreneurs or attend networking events.
You have probably tried or heard about hundreds of ways to network with people. But then what do you do?
What do you talk about? Or maybe you get stuck in the networking friendzone after scheduling countless coffee meetings that never result in new business?
Or maybe you’ve been advised to cold call or do cold outreach methods by some experts?
If you’ve struggled with networking and feel like you just wish someone could outline a system for you, today’s episode is for you. Listen today as I break down a simple four step plan to help you love networking and effectively build your business.
Find the full episode and transcript at richlysuccessful.com/18
First, let’s talk about some of the most disliked associations with networking. Some solopreneurs don’t enjoy it, some do. But here is a list of reasons why some solopreneurs struggle with networking.
4 Reasons Why Solopreneurs Struggle with Networking
1. You are an introvert.
This is common. I would say at least 50 percent of the population identifies with being an introvert, so going to a networking event or even finding ways to talk to people in a business setting can be uncomfortable.
The good news: This is a good thing. You will be in good company. You don’t have to be extroverted and you don’t have to network all day every day. You just need to talk to some people and connect. Ask questions about the other person. Be curious. If you are an introvert who doesn’t like to be in the spotlight, go ahead and ask the other person questions.
2. You don’t know how to approach people or what to say.
I did another podcast about this in episode 3, but a lot of solopreneurs feel awkward when it comes to networking because you may feel the need to impress others or be impressive in some way. This is so common, so you aren’t the only one if you feel this.
The good news: You can shift your mind from the “need to impress” to “how can I serve” this person. It’s amazing how this tiny shift takes you from the “getting” mindset to the “giving” mindset and removes imposter syndrome instantly.
3. You don’t want to feel salesy like you are trying to “get” something from someone or sell them.
The good news: Most people don’t want to feel like they are in a transactional relationship, and this on the selling side or the being sold side. Humans mostly prefer genuine relationships. If you are listening to this podcast, you probably prefer genuine relationships that aren’t transactional.
4. You know how to develop a friendship so then you end up having a bunch of “friends” or acquaintances but no clients.
And this makes you feel slightly creepy or manipulative or salesy because you were trying to network your business and now you’ve given the wrong message that you are just a nice person.
The good news: This conundrum is also common. I’ve worked with so many solopreneurs who get out there and network and post on social media and do all the things they are told to do to build a business and “get clients” and then there’s nothing but crickets.
Why the crickets?
Because building relationships and networking is a long game plan. All businesses take time to build because they are based on relationships and trust. If you are networking to “get clients” then it can be felt as transactional, people pleasing, or unprofessional.
And when something feels icky, you stop doing it. You say, “well, that didn’t work.” But just because it didn’t work immediately, doesn’t mean it didn’t work.
There’s something I like to call the invisible web of connection. I talked about this in podcast episode 9. This connection is built over time and will result in more clients than you can handle if you build it well.
So how do you build it well? Here are the steps to building the invisible web of connection that will be the backbone of your successful business.
4 Step Plan to Networking as a Solopreneur to Build Your Invisible Web of Connection
1. Decide you are in it for the long run.
I think this step is super important, because if you want a quick fix, there isn’t one. It takes time and it takes a decision to intentionally build a thoughtful business based on service.
If you are trying to build a business based on needing money fast, then your energy will come across as desperate and needy. And people will sense that you are trying to “get” something from them.
I have worked with a lot of entrepreneurs over the years, and one realtor that I talked to who wasn’t my client asked me for suggestions. She said she didn’t have time to build relationships, she needed a faster way.
She tried cold calling and hated it; she said it didn’t work. But she also didn’t have time to build relationships. She ended up going back to her job as a computer programmer because she needed the money. And that was ok, it wasn’t for her.
That’s why I think the first step is to decide. Do you want to have a long-term, successful business that serves others and builds the wealth and freedom for your life? If the answer is yes, then go to step 2.
2. Talk to people.
Talk to people wherever you go. This could be at actual networking events, or it could be standing in line at the grocery store. Connect.
When you meet someone who seems interesting or that you may have a connection with, invite them to have another conversation with you.
3. Follow-up with 1:1 conversation
There are a lot of terms for this follow up conversation. It could be a networking conversation, or a coffee. And it doesn’t have to be in person, it can be virtual or even on the phone. But what it is a follow-up conversation that helps you to know the person a bit more.
It’s at this follow-up stage that most people feel the most confusion.
What are you supposed to talk about?
Am I supposed to see if they need my services?
Are they going to try to sell me their services or products?
I have found that this first 1:1 conversation with a new connection (who is not a clear potential client) can only go three ways. And it is best that you get clear in your mind what these three ways are, so that things don’t feel weird. This also prevents you from falling into the fake friendzone.
The three ways are:
A. Business Connection
C. No connection
Now let’s break this down. Friendship takes time to develop, but so do business relationships. What usually happens is you start out with the clarity of it being a business meeting, and then if things go well it can develop into a friendship as time goes by.
But here if there is a business connection, the person could either be a potential client or refer you to a potential client. And vice versa, you may need their service now or in the future and you may be able to refer clients to them now or indefinitely into the future.
These relationships are vital to business and to life and are the foundation of your web of connection.
Also, down the road, you may develop true friendships with the people you meet.
But I feel like it has to be clear. It has to be clear in your mind what your purpose is with the follow up so that you don’t feel creepy or salesy or manipulative, and also this makes it not transactional.
You are going to develop real relationships with people and help them by sending referrals as much as you are going to receive them.
I think problems arise when you schedule one-on-one meetings and then that’s the end of it. That feels transactional. This is a missed opportunity, but usually happens because intentions were unclear. Was the other person trying to “sell” you? Were you trying to “sell” the other person? And if this transaction didn’t occur was the meeting just a dead end?
I think this is why it is important to be honest, clear and kind of direct.
The purpose of a one-on-one meeting is see if there is a real connection and also establish some sort of relationship agreement. The clearer and more direct you are, the better it will feel. Make it clear when you invite this person to the 1:1 conversation that you want to see if you have a business relationship connection.
It won’t feel slimy anymore because you won’t have to worry about what people will think your intentions are. And when you are clear that you want to form a real business relationship with this person, you won’t be afraid to ask them for help or for referrals.
4. Maintain the Connection
The fourth step is the most important. It involves maintaining the connection by regularly connecting with each other. You could do this in any way you like, in person, having coffee, a quick call or text, etc. But check in with each other and ask if they have any referrals or send them some referrals.
Some of my best business friends have become my best friends. And we regularly give each other referrals.
And when you approach networking in this way, you will find it simple to build your business one real relationship at a time.
Thanks for listening today. If you need some help with setting up your business for success, or if you are ready to take it to the next level and make more money and have more freedom, I would love to work with you. Go to https://richlysuccessful.com/work-with-christina/ and fill out the application.