The article is contributed by Anupama Soni-Founder of Open Door Communications.
Face-to-face networking is on pause, relationship building is not. My love for stories makes me a natural net worker. I thrive on people’s energy and this is one thing that keeps me going. I love my daily interactions with my colleagues, clients and peers and you can imagine how difficult it is to go through my day in its absence. Do you find yourself struggling in this prolonged isolation like I did? Luckily, I found that it doesn’t have to be difficult at all. If you’re a people’s person or in a people-facing business/profession, here are a few things I’ve discovered that may hopefully help you too.
Make goodwill calls not sales calls
The collective pain has also raised the empathy bar, every communication you do today will have an impact. Let me use a personal example here to show you what I mean. I have a taken a Home Loan and I pay monthly EMIs towards it. A while ago I got a call from one of the company executive who thanked me for making payments on time and also mentioned that the interest rate I pay to their company is on the higher side compared to some other banks. She suggested, I should consider enquiring in the market for a better rate for myself at my convenience. Pleasantly surprised, I asked her if her company and superiors are aware of this call and suggestion, to which she said it was their management’s idea to educate their clients. Now it is a different matter if I transfer my loan to another bank at a later stage or not, but I do not think I will forget this gesture.
Use LinkedIn well
I can’t stress this enough. We must all update it thoroughly. I recently saw a very nicely formatted ad by a client that said “We are building enviable LinkedIn for our clients”. I thought it was a smart idea and since I am a communication expert and I found I had some spare time on hand these days, I decided to do it for myself. I can’t really put down in figures but I have seen a spike in new contacts, and I even managed to get a new project for the company solely by networking here.
Jump onto the Webinar bandwagon
I know the whole world is tired of hearing about webinars, FB and Insta Lives but there is no right or wrong in this time. It will help you connect with your customers and lots of relevant people. Some you will continue to stay in touch with long after! Trust me on this and thank me later. I have a buzzing new entrepreneur group and some are slowly becoming a part of my social group too. Not only that, I’m learning new things as well. For example, we partnered with a company in the NFT space, learning how it works and educating the media and people through various activities have been fun and the Metaverse world is really the future.
Approach new contacts
We often find our comfort in people we know even if we have brilliant bunch of contacts waiting to be approached, that in my opinion is the biggest networking mistake people make. We wouldn't be exposed to new, will not have out of the box ideas and continue to get validation of our own thoughts if we sit in our comfort circle, drastically limiting our leanings. If you genuinely admire someones work, reach-out to them with a thoughtful note and ask for the advice if you are seeking one, most people are receptive! Let the silent not dampen the spirit.
There is nothing wrong or right here, we all are learning and people are more open to new ways of communication, so use it.
Go beyond business and build a close network
There is no right or wrong way to build a close network. Start with a large group, pay attention and proceed with care, and like they say - you will find your niche. I was a member of over eight WhatsApp social groups (people took permission before adding me) and I observed long enough to see the ones that made sense to me. I continued with only two. One has to be clear of the purpose a group will serve. My friend introduced me to a women’s networking group when I initially started my business. I joined hesitantly because I was wary of catfights and silent wars. This group however has changed my perception; women in this group are extremely helpful, laud you on your success, lift your spirit up and are forever ready for celebration.
My Instagram was strictly for my pictures and my thoughts. I have a slightly wry sense of humor and I am very mindful of that especially in the workplace but, since Instagram is my space, I experimented and to my surprise I have people coming and appreciating my stories and saying how they wait for new posts from me. It has become my happy place. I have observed how my personality has evolved and I no longer feel that I need validation.
So, while you do some of these don’t get lost in the virtual world. Divide your time sensibly. Get that sunshine and exercise. Use free platforms, be responsible, pay attention and proceed with care. Happy Networking!