Jared Brown is a freelance developer, Purdue grad and co-founder of Hubstaff, a time tracking tool for remote teams. Unlike other time trackers, Hubstaff makes it possible for managers to verify that their team is working efficiently. It has dozens of time tracking integrations to handle payroll, accounting and invoicing all from one tool.
Recently, YEC spoke with Jared about his experiences networking, and his advice for others aspiring to improve their own experience. His best advice is below.
Offer Before Asking
Offer something before asking for something — you’ll create goodwill among your contacts and connections that will influence the tone of your relationship in the long term. So many people view networking with a “me first” attitude that your contact will be pleasantly surprised by how helpful you’re being right off the bat. They’ll be more likely to offer their help in the future and to invest their own time into cultivating the relationship.
Always Follow Up
Once, a business contact referred me to their friend to get more information about Hubstaff. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but that person turned out to become a huge customer of ours; not only for time tracking but also for remote staffing. The key, as I’ve learned with other connections, is following up on referrals. Always reach out, no matter what your first impression of how likely it is to impact your business. You never know what will happen!
Don’t Bother Faking It
A successful networker has to have genuine interest in what the other person has to say. People can always detect if you’re faking interest, even if you do your best to look them in the eye, nod and pretend as though you care. Being genuinely interested in your contacts makes them feel valued and makes it more likely that they’ll want to follow up on the connection too. If you’re not genuinely interested in interacting with someone, ask yourself if you really need that contact. Odds are, if you have to fake interest, then you probably don’t. Focus your energies elsewhere.
Focus on Relaxed Atmospheres
Casual networking events like cocktail mixers, community service groups or events where they specify casual dress are the best places to make solid connections because attendees can be more relaxed and natural. This helps set the tone of the relationship as one that’s professional but authentic. You can dress a little more relaxed and take the time to get to know other people’s stories. They’ll also feel like they have more time to interact, and might be a little more open than in a more formal environment.
Turn Contacts Into Connections
You should always be updating your contacts, then reaching out to them and turning them into connections. Every time I get a business card, I scan it then update my LinkedIn contacts with it via Evernote. Always make sure you have one central system where your contacts are updated. Then, periodically reach out to a new contact and see if you can turn them into an actual connection. Talk to them; meet with them; see what you can learn from them or how you two can help each other.
Add Interesting, Personal Details
Answer small talk questions with relationship hooks. It’s a great way to stand out in a fun way when someone asks you “How has your day been?” for the fifteenth time. Instead of a standard reply, try adding in small, interesting personal details like, “Good, and it’s going to get even better when my husband takes me out to dinner tonight,” or “Great, I just got some really interesting new partnership deals on the table.” Just don’t get too depressing or too personal. Nobody wants to know that your day has been awful because your wife won’t sign the divorce papers, etc.
Don’t Rush Business Relationships
One time I abused a new networking relationship by asking for a favor way, way too early on. I had a really urgent business need for something this contact could have provided me. But instead of building up the connection, really taking time to get to know the other person and build at least a modicum of trust, I asked for a favor only a few days after getting their business card. Not only did they say no, but it was pretty much impossible to salvage the relationship after because of the damage I did to my own image. I haven’t done that since!
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.