Episode 131

Episode 131: 3-Part Series: Networking Mastery: Unlocking Your Professional Edge (Part 1)


What you’ll learn in this episode:

Mastering the art of networking to grow your business or career and create a strategic advantage is something every professional should learn. In today’s episode, we delve into the importance of networking, effective strategies for building meaningful connections, and how to leverage your network to propel your career or business forward. Whether you’re an ambitious entrepreneur seeking collaborations or a corporate professional aiming for career advancement, this podcast is your guide to unlocking the power of networking and achieving success in today’s competitive landscape.

In this episode, you will learn to:

  • Why networking is one of the most powerful, and easiest, ways to grow personally and professionally.
  • The three phases of networking, and how mastering each phase is essential for creating a powerful return on investment of your time and energy.
  • How having a strategy, plan, and the right mindset play heavily into your success at a networking (but play out largely before you even get in the room).

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Hello, everyone, and welcome to this week’s episode of the It’s Your Offer Podcast. I’m Jessica Miller. And I’m so excited to be here with you to kick off a 3-part networking series that we have starting today. In my business, networking has been a crucial piece to both my personal development and the thriving nature of my business. It has connected me with people that I have been able to partner with built relationships with, be connected to other clients with and find amazing opportunities to give back in ways I never thought possible. Many people network, but they don’t do it in a powerful way. Most recently, I’m part of a community called the Business Made Simple community, its certified coaching under Don Miller. If any of you have heard of him, I talk about him a lot on this podcast. So I’m a huge fan, and I’m one of his coaches. And in that community, I lead what is called the coach roundtable.


Most recently, networking has come up a lot, maybe that’s because it is the beginning of the year, maybe it’s just top of mind for people, or maybe people have been out there doing networking events, because we tend to do that as we kick off the year. And it’s just not going the way they expect it to they’re not seeing the results, it doesn’t feel good. And this discussion came up around this because it was really a topic that people were wanting to connect around to talk about best practices in my business. And frankly, in my entire career, even when I was in corporate networking was an integral part of my business and the things that I did on a daily basis. And the reason for this is because I believe that partnership and relationships and connection, open doors in ways that you could not imagine. And you could not do on your own when you network appropriately. And I say that in quotations. But when you do it in the right way it can be fulfilling, it can be win-win, it can also feel like an amazing opportunity for you to give so much value to others, and to also have that reciprocity come back to you in spades.


And so I started thinking through my framework for networking and how I do this in a powerful way. And how every time I do it, it feels amazing, it really feels like I am giving something to somebody else in that exchange. And I’m getting so much back from them as well. And so I started to think through that framework, and I started to map it out. And in this three-part series, I want to share it with you. When I think of networking, there really is three distinct parts, there’s networking, and what you do before you actually get to the networking event. So it’s sort of that setup for networking. There’s what you do when you actually are at the event. And then there’s what you do after the event. Those three phases, there are really three distinct pieces. And I think you have to optimize each one of those and also have them integrated with each other in order for your networking to really produce the results you want.


Which, side note, is also a really important part of networking, which is, why do you even want to network and what are you doing there, but we’ll get to that piece of it. But networking can be one of the most powerful tools in your business for both you personally and your business. And I believe that if you want to build a thriving business, if you want to touch a lot of people and have a big impact, both for you and your business and your customers, but also in the vein of helping other people and really making that web and that ripple, a big part of who you are and what your business stands for. Networking is the answer for that. And it’s an easy thing that you can do, anybody can learn it, anybody can do it. And, frankly, you’re doing it already all the time, whether you know it or not.


So today, we’re going to talk about part one of this three-part series. And we’re going to break down the best practices around what I do before I go to a networking event. And how you can set yourself up for success. In that event, when you start early. You start before you even get there and you have things set in place to make the networking event that you go to a success in whatever way that means for you. Okay, so here are those pieces of my framework.


So the first thing that I do, and this is going to sound very obvious to all of you, because again, many of you are doing this already. And if you’re not, you’re probably going to different things and engaging with different people. And you’re doing this without you knowing it, but you want to be strategic about the events you actually go to. And I say this because if you’re anything like me, you could come up with any tiny little thread, any string that will make going to some of these networking events matter to your business, right, it make it meaningful. But I want you to be really diligent and intentional with your time. Because time is one of those things that is a resource that is super important to all of us. And so that includes the people that are at the networking event that you’re going to but most importantly for you. So I want you to think about your networking event through the lens of How is this going to impact my business? And in whatever way it’s impacting it? Is it going to have a high return on the investment? So that’s what I always ask myself is, how is this going to affect my business? How is this networking event going to set my business in motion in some way? What is that result going to be by going to this event, and I really weigh the return on investment of my time and planning with going to this event. Now, some people will think about events like, is it a big event? Oh, it’s super important, you know, it’s going to have a big ROI. And if it’s small, it’s not going to. I want to take that out of your head.


Because we get sideswiped by that sometimes. It doesn’t matter the size of the engagement. What matters is who is going to be there? What is going on there? and how it connects with your business specifically, and your goals. So thinking through strategically, why am I going to this event? Why am I picking it? Who is going to potentially be there? What topics are they talking about? That could be a value? How can I add value to the room? In what way am I interfacing with these people that’s important. And does this make sense for me to give my investment of time and effort to get a return of some sort. And be very, very diligent about what you say yes to.  Because the truth is, whatever you say yes to, you’re saying no to something else. And you want to make sure that you’re using your time and resources (meaning you- you are an asset in your business) really, really strategically.


And as we get bigger and more things happen in our business, we can really get pulled all over the place in where we’re showing up. And we just burn ourselves out for very little return on the back end. And that’s both an internal return, meaning it’s fulfilling for us, but also return for our business. So you want to make sure you’re thinking through strategically what is happening at that event, you know, is your target market going to be there? Are there people that are connected to your target market? Are there experts in that room who are going to somehow help you grow? Where it’s going to affect your business in a positive way and thus, affect your clients in a positive way. Ask yourself those questions before you say yes. Okay. So that’s the first piece of advice before you even go to the networking event.


Number two is to set a goal? Why are you going to this event? What do you hope to get out of it? Really get clear on when you go there. What you’re going to actually accomplish? Do you want to connect with a certain number of people? Do you want to find partners for a certain initiative that you are working on? Do you want to connect with someone who’s in a specific niche? Or maybe that has connections to somebody else that you want to meet? Or a potential client? You know, do you want to discover other people that might be potential clients for you? Whatever that is, there’s no right or wrong answer. But you want to be really specific.


And if you can put a number on it, like, I’m going to go to this event, and I’m going to meet three people in the textiles industry. Or I’m gonna go to this event and I’m going to make a connection with three people who are potential media targets. Or something like that. Be very clear with what you’re doing. And if you can put a number on it even better. So you go there, you have a goal. Now you specifically, strategically pick the event, you have a goal specifically for what you’re doing there (which also gives you momentum). And I always find it fun going to networking events where I’ll say something like “I’m looking to talk to three people who are using software to streamline their calendar before this night is over”. Maybe it’s an event with coaches, and they’re all using some sort of software. And I’m like, what are they looking for? Or what are they what are they using? And so giving myself this little target is a challenge. And then I don’t walk out of there until I have the answer. Those three people, those three answers, whatever it is. So try to make it very specific. So you know, if you can actually hit it, or if you actually hit it.


The third thing is do your research before you go to the event. So in the world of digital media a lot of these events, they’re either leveraging online for recruiting, or there’s information about them online, or they’re posted in a Facebook group or something. You have a lot of access to who is going to be in the room. It could be who’s speaking at the event. It could be who’s going to the event. It could be people who went to the event before. Whatever it is, you want to do your research. Because if you can figure out who’s in the room, and then you can again, bake it into these pieces strategically – are these people you want to talk to? Who do you want to talk to? Who do you want to make sure you talk to when you go to the event? And what is this goal that you have – are those people in line with that goal? You can then make the event really powerful. So I know for me when I’m going to certain events, I will research who’s going to be in there. I will research the speakers for example. And I will have a list of these are the people I want to make sure that I connect with.


Because either I just want to meet them, maybe there’s a partnership opportunity. Maybe there’s somebody that knows someone else that I know. Maybe I think that they might know somebody else I’m looking to connect with. Maybe it’s an industry I’m exploring, it could be anything. But I always do my homework, I always do my research. And also, if there are other people that I know that are going to this event, I will reach out to them, “Hey, I’d love to see you there”, or “I hear that you’re going to this place. Have you been before?” All of those types of things where they can give me some insights into what to expect and how to utilize that event in the most efficient and powerful way. So doing your research before is really important. And that, to me is a way that you can really set yourself up for when you’re in that space for that period of time. You’re really looking for those people that are going to fulfill whatever it is that you have set as a goal, or people you just want to meet or people you want to develop relationships with. But you’re not just wandering around the room, aimlessly. You’re going for a very specific reason. You have a goal in mind. And these are people that you know that can get you closer to that goal. And maybe there’s even something that you can offer to them. That is also beneficial, like, oh, this person is focused on this area. And I’ve discovered this thing recently, you know, that has really worked out well. And I just want to meet this person. And I’m happy to give them this information or share this best practice or something like that. Where again, it’s this reciprocal thing, and it feels really good, and it’s win-win for everybody.


 The fourth thing is setting up a way for people to connect with you before you even get to the event. This is a huge pet peeve of mine. And I don’t understand how people miss this. But it is hugely important. When you go to an event, especially when you’re networking, and you’re going to meet new people. One of the goals that I think that you should have is connecting with these people, in order for people to connect with you. That usually means that they’re connecting in a way that when you leave the room, or you leave the event, you are still connected. That means that there has to be some way that they either get your information or get connected to you in cyberspace in order to keep that relationship going.


I cannot tell you how many times I have gone to any networking event where people do not have any way to connect. They haven’t even thought about how you can connect with them. And I’m like looking around like “Really? You’re at a networking event and you have no business card, no strategy, no nothing to make that happen?” And I feel like it is a huge, missed opportunity. And it looks really unprofessional. So one of the things that I tell people is figure out what are you going to say to people or what is your next step going to be when you want to connect with somebody else at the event, or they want to connect with you. This could be something as simple as having business cards printed out. There are electronic business cards like dotcards.net, for example, where it’s an electronic business card. People use QR codes where you just scan that thing and then pulls you into somebody’s contacts. People connect on social media, right? “Hey, let me follow you on Facebook”, or “Oh, are you on Instagram or LinkedIn? let’s connect!” Any of those things are perfect. But you have to decide what you’re going to do before you get there. And then you have to have it set up so that it can be smooth.


Like for example, if you don’t have your business card printed out, and you decide to do that when you’re standing in the room, it’s not going to go really well. Right? So come up with your strategy. For me, I’ve often just connected with people through LinkedIn or on one of the social channels. I’ll ask them, “Are you on there? Yes, great. Let’s connect right now”. And I will go on there. And I will find them while I’m standing there. And I will say, “hey, connect”. And then I will often send them a little message, “It was great to meet you at the XYZ event. Can’t wait to connect again about XYZ in the future”. Or “let’s set up a 15-minute intro call in the future to talk about whatever”. It is so simple, but you have to have a plan for this. Do not walk into the event like you don’t know how you got there and you have no way for people to connect with you. I know that that sounds somewhat ridiculous, but I see it happen all the time. And really the pre-game, this is the pre-game, the pre-game before the networking event is one of the most important pieces to setting you up for success. Yes, what do you and what happens when you’re in the networking event is also important. But I promise you without a strategy and a plan and having these little pieces in place, it will make it so much more difficult and less powerful once you get there. Like your ability to actually pull it through into the post-networking phase is largely indicative on what you do before you actually get there. So having that way for people to connect with you is really important. And I as I said you don’t have to make it overly complicated. I personally love to leverage the social platforms. LinkedIn is one of those places or Instagram or whatever, and just connect with people that way and then you have that follow up session or stay connected with them in that way. But connection is the key. It is the key. You are at an event. It is a short period of time. That relationship gets fostered over time. And if you’re not connected with people, then you can’t foster it.


So this kind of goes back to that beginning phase – knowing what you’re doing at this event, then setting a goal, knowing who’s going to be there who to talk to, and then knowing how to connect with them in a powerful way. So that you’re starting this relationship, and you’re pulling it through over time. All those pieces are really important in this pre-networking, that pre-game phase.


And then last but not least, you want to make sure that you have your mindset straight. And what I mean by that is how many of us have gone into a networking event. And we just feel like people are pitching us and selling to us all the time. It feels terrible. And people often go to networking events thinking it’s going to be like the sales pitch fest. One of the most important pieces of networking is about developing a relationship. It’s about connecting with somebody else in a win-win, high-value way. And that means high value to them as well. And so when you go to these events, you want to go with the mindset of a servant heart, of giving. And you want to think about when you go there, what am I here to really be doing? And I’m here to really be developing relationships and offering value to people and making genuine connections. Now, side note, of course, many of us are looking to connect with potential clients and are looking to see if the people in the room could be potential clients. That is completely fine. And I think having a heart of if there is somebody in that room that can benefit from what it is that you have to offer them, it’s almost your duty to let them know this in some capacity. However, it doesn’t need to be right out of the gate. And the leading thing that you lead with when you’re talking to people, it should be about giving value, listening, thinking about how you can help each other. And then also looking for those maybe longer term opportunities that could develop over time.


In a networking event, also, we can’t forget that it’s a very short, isolated period of time. So although you can get some information from people and you’re meeting them, to know the whole story and go right to the sale and the CTA is probably not going to be the best thing. Now, if you’re having conversations with people where they want to have that conversation, you absolutely can pull that offline. And we’re going to talk about that in the next part of this in part two – which really goes into what do you do when you’re actually at the networking event. But beforehand, you want to get yourself into that mindset where you are there to provide value. You are there to give more value than you’re get. You’re there to create a win-win. You’re there to make lasting relationships. Sometimes I go to these events, and I’m just like I’m collecting friends here. You know what I mean? That’s my goal. It’s how many people can I meet? How many people can I learn about what they do? How can I make those connections in my brain in ways that we can both solve problems, or maybe I can help them solve a problem. It is really with a servant heart. And it makes the networking event so much more fun. Because one of my goals is not to go there and sell three people on one of my packages, or sign three consulting clients. That’s not what it’s about. It’s about connection. And it’s about meeting new people and hearing their stories and thinking about how we can together create a better world for the people around us and our clients. So when I go to these networking events, it’s always fun, it is productive. And it is a high value for the people that I engage with. And often vice versa. Because again, we’re giving time and effort when we go to these places. And I want the people in the room that I connect with, to feel like it was worth their time. And I think always when you’re truly genuinely connecting with other people, it is always worth your time.


And when I say that I mean it because you never know what is going on with other people. You never know the value that you’ve given and how far reaching that can be. You never know who they know. You never know the doors that it can open. And I have found every time I’ve gone in with this very strategic plan with my goals with an open heart, it always comes back to me tenfold always. And I walk out of there feeling energized. I feel like it’s been time well spent. It’s been super fun. And I’m ready to do it again, which is one of the reasons I like doing it. And one of the reasons I do it a lot. And one of the reasons why it really has created incredible results in my business, both for the business growth, but also for me personally. And remember, you are your biggest asset in your business. You’re the most important thing So you want these things to be powerful for your business growth, your bottom line, the clients that you find, the relationships that you make, but you also you want it to be really impactful for you.


So I’m going to recap in this part one, it is about pre-networking. It’s what you do before you get to the networking event. I affectionately refer to it as the pre-game. It’s what’s happening before the main event – which is you go to the networking event. Okay, so to recap, the first thing I do is strategically pick the events that I go to what is the purpose of this event? Is it tied tightly to my business, or either my target customer is going to be there are my people that I can connect with? Are they connected to my target customers? Are these just awesome people? I just I want to know when it’s going to enrich my business in some way. I’m always asking strategically does this event make sense is there going to be a high ROI on me spending my time and energy to go to this event. Be diligent with where you’re showing up. It is better for you to show up in less places that are more targeted, and very tightly aligned to what it is that you want to create in your business, than to go everywhere and try to be everything to everybody. That will just wear you out. And it will create very little results for you. So you don’t want to be doing that. And we get caught in the crosshairs when we get bigger in business, because we can kind of make everything be meaningful for us. But it’s really not. So be diligent with your time. Remember, you say yes to something, you’re saying no to something else. So make sure that you’re doing that a diligent way.


Two, set a goal. What do you want to have happen at this event? You know, how many people do you want to connect with? What kind of things do you want to learn about have a specific goal, and if you put a number on it, like, I want to meet these three people, or I want to meet three people in this niche by the end of the night, great, because it’s even more, right, those smart goals, you can actually measure it. And that becomes a little challenge, like “I am not leaving until I meet three people who are media contacts”, for example.


The fourth thing is have a set way for people to connect with you, as I mentioned, do not go there without any way for people to be connected to you, once you leave that room. Again, sounds so stupid, but I cannot tell you how many people don’t do this before they go there. So have your business card printed out. If that’s the route you want to go, go to dotcards.net and do that. If you want to do that have a QR code. Connect with people on Instagram, LinkedIn, Whatever. But before you get there know exactly what that’s going to be. So it is locked and loaded. Because doing that real time is really just not a professional way to do it. It doesn’t look good. Like, hey, you’re here at a networking event, you don’t even know how we could connect with people. It just doesn’t look good. So you want to make sure that you set yourself up for success and have that ironed out.


And then last but not least, you want to get your mindset straight, you are in the business of giving, you’re in the business of value. And that means the person on the other end of that conversation. So when you go to that event, thinking, this is going to be an event where I give value, I create relationships. I look for those areas where I can help people it’s really that servant heart. And I also have my business and my clients in my heart as well. As I think about the people in the room too. It will always be win-win. Do not walk into those networking events, thinking it’s going to be a sales pitch fest that comes off really self serving, it feels terrible. And it is not a win-win. And I promise you if you keep your brain in the place of serving others, providing value, meeting as many people as you can, hearing their story thinking about how you can help each other.


You will walk out of that room with so much value so much about you that it will set your business on fire. Because here’s the thing I want to leave you with with any of this with me, especially when it comes to networking. People feel your energy, they dial into your intention. It is like a blaring horn and I know we don’t think it because a lot of times we’re so focused on what do we say at these networking events. But there’s a vibe you give off when you walk into the room and people pick it up in a hot second. So you want to go in pure of heart you want to go in with that servant leadership. And when you do that, people pick up on it and you know what it creates, it creates a magnet, because everybody wants to be around that. That’s what they want. They want someone who genuinely cares about them, cares about their business cares about their clients. And it’s actually there for that win-win.


And you can feel it, it is like a billboard is you know, like on the side of the highway, I feel like people are like written across their forehead. So make sure that your mind is in check when you go there in that place, because people will pick up on it, regardless of what comes out of your mouth. So those are the five things you want to do when you’re thinking about getting ready for a networking event. So that is part one. So I want you to take the time between now and part two, to think about your networking strategy. What are you doing? Are you doing it at all right? Some people put that on the backburner like they’re so in their business, you know, they’re working in it that they don’t have time to actually step back and realize that networking is a powerful tool for them to be doing and doing very strategically. And again, your time is valuable. So doing this and making sure that you’re putting these pieces in place, so that when you go to the networking events, and you use networking events, to grow your business, you can do that in a very powerful way. So I want you to walk through these five things, and just do an audit, no judgement, right? We’re all normal. Here, we’re all humans. Just do an audit and see where you’re at with this, if you have networking events coming up. And this is your homework, if you have something on your calendar, I want you to think through the lens of these five things for that networking event coming up. And I want you to put these pieces in place right now, right now. Because that is going to make the difference on how that networking event really plays out for you and plays out for the people that you’re connecting with. So take the time to do that.


If you’re listening to this, and you don’t have a networking event on the calendar, this is your sign to get one on there, go out there and find one that makes sense. It is not hard, just find one. And then put it through these five filters. You’re thinking about getting that on your calendar and getting yourself set up for it.


Next week, we’re going to talk about part two of this series. So if you are not subscribed to this podcast, go and subscribe right now because you do not want to miss this. Next week, we’re going to talk about what do you do when you’re at the event? What are those best practices for making that event a success? I will tell you all, and I said this in the beginning, but I’m gonna say it again. My business, my multiple six figure business was built on networking. When I started and I made my first six figures, people would roll their eyes at me, I did not have a lead magnet, I did not have a fully fleshed out funnel. People were like, What are you doing? I don’t even think I had a calendar link. Like what I don’t understand how you’re doing this, like I kind of broke every sort of digital marketing, you know, thing that I you know, talk about now, I don’t even think I had an email list. I was emailing people would like roll their eyes. But you know what I had, I had a solid networking plan. And I went out and I talked to whoever I could talk to. I wanted to hear all about them. And I worked on my networking just like I’m teaching you here. So if you’re listening to this, and you’re wondering, why should I care about this? This is why because even if you have that perfect funnel, like I didn’t have at the time, you layer this on top your pledges pouring rocket fuel on top of everything. So next week, we’re going to talk about what do you do at the event? And don’t miss it because Part Two is just as powerful as part one. And then the week after that it’s going to be part three about what do you do after the event. All three parts are important, and they will take you to becoming a networking superstar overnight. Until next week, everyone have a great week!