There’s a common phrase in business: “It’s not what you know, but who you know that can get you to where you want to be.” That’s 100% true, however the only events I was ever able to find, were networking events where I’d meet other entrepreneurs. Exchange business cards and get very little in return. Maybe a few calling a few days later with their pitch.
Quite the hassle considering how much time you put into those events, travel and costs of food and drinks.
The pandemic showed us that remote work is indeed possible for most business arenas. The same is true for networking. Virtual networking is much easier than in person. For example, all I have to do is open an app when I have a spare moment. Whether it’s a coffee break, sitting at home or driving in the car (hands-free of course!). What you’ll learn in this article is how to make virtual networking work for you.
My name is Jenkins Ebiware Jr, and I serve as the managing director of Samex. In this role, I’m responsible for the design, construction and implementation of talent acquisition, operations management and employee retention strategies for our strategic expansion partners. With a strong passion for software and development, I also work everyday with our engineering teams on our evolving technology ecosystem while building relationships with technology based companies around the world.
What I’ll discuss in this article are strategies and tactics that I’ve used myself to find success with networking virtually. We explore these tactics in much greater detail in our Unlocking Leadership Potential learning experience. But today, we’ll cover the best approach to take for building long-term relationships.
Don’t get me wrong, I do miss in-person connections. But I’ve come to love virtual networking as well because of how easy it can be for forming relationships when you’re busier than you’d like to be. So, to kick things off, let’s start with the biggest differences between virtual and in-person networking.
"The richest people in the world build networks; everyone else is trained to look for work." -- Robert Kiyosaki
If you’re someone who considers themselves and introvert, you’ll find virtual networking much more to your liking. However, if you excel networking in-person, you can apply many of the same techniques in the virtual environment.
Actually, it’s not! As you seek out more partnerships through networking, the most important thing to keep in mind is that it should always be about “them”, never about “you”. What this means, is that your focus should be on what you can do for others, not about what you can get from this event, or what they can do for you.
This is perhaps the most off-putting aspect of networking for me, and for many as well. When people looked at me as just a potential customer to be sold, instead of someone they could collaborate with for a mutually beneficial partnership.
Don’t make this mistake when you’re networking virtually!
It’s important to keep in touch, but don’t make each interaction a sales pitch. Instead, look for different ways to provide value to those you’re connected with. Pay attention to what those in your network are trying to achieve, and come up with different ways that you can help them get to where they want to do. Once you’ve become a great source of information and help, it’s more likely they’ll want to reciprocate and help you when the opportunity arises.
If you don’t aim for something, you’ll hit nothing. Basically, if you don’t have a goal or a plan for any networking event you’re attending, you’re missing out on the biggest opportunity that networking provides. In our Unlocking Leadership Potential learning experience, we provide a framework for planning that helps you ensure that the things you do are carefully planned, with a desired goal in mind. It can be tempting to sign-up for many events with the goal of meeting as many people as possible, but being focused and strategic will lead to much greater results.
Have a goal in mind when you start networking virtually. It could be looking for a referral partner, getting more people to know about your brand, finding investors to fund your startup, etc. This allows you to create a picture of the exact person that you’d like to meet. Map out a plan for how you’ll connect, how you’ll follow-up, and what you’ll do to provide value to help them in their mission.