By Dawn Mentzer – Freelance Writer & Insatiable Solopreneur
So much of our communications and access to information is instantaneous. And we like it that way. We don’t have the patience to wait for much of anything, and we’ll take short-cuts whenever and wherever we can.
As a solopreneur selling a professional service, I’ve found there’s one thing that has no short-cut. There’s no alternative route to take. When it comes to getting results from networking, you have to wait. Both online and face-to-face networking require patience – often lots of it.
Networking is developmental. It’s a relationship-building process that’s part of an outreach strategy to build awareness of who you are and what you have to offer to the professional community. It might span weeks, months and sometimes even years before an initial contact will turn into a client. Frustrating? Sure it is, but as a solopreneur, you need to develop a tolerance for it.
In my experience, rare is it that I immediately land a project after meeting someone for the first time or having just a few exchanges with them via social media. In my field (and I’m sure it’s the same for many other genres of professional services), people like to get to know you and what you’re all about before they decide to use your services. Or sometimes it takes a while for them to figure out that they need what you have to offer.
Because the interval for going from connection to client can vastly vary, here are 3 things to keep in mind for narrowing the gap:
1. Don’t be a “One Hit Wonder”
After you’ve committed yourself to networking via particular groups or online media, be present and accounted for as much as possible. To build relationships and allow people to get to know you, you need to be continually consistent with your participation. Exposure is the key to gaining trust. If you show you’re invested in building your professional relationships, prospective clients will know you’ll be equally committed to serving their needs.
2. Be genuine, but be conversant
It’s rather easy to spot a fake, so be yourself. At the same time, you need to be conversant and willing to engage in conversations with people you don’t know that well (if at all). I understand that if you’re an introvert, this won’t be as easy for you as it is for someone who is naturally outgoing. So, you’ll need to be yourself, but go beyond your comfort zone a bit. [Hint: It gets easier the more you do it!]
3. Don’t rule anyone out
I’ve found that clients and referrals can come from seemingly unlikely places. Although it’s helpful to go into a networking situation with an idea of who you want to approach, don’t snub the Mary Kay representative because she doesn’t fit the mold. When you have an opportunity to talk with someone about what you do, by all means take it. You never know who knows someone else who either has – or will have – a need for your services.
More about networking:
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