networkingSo we’ve all heard that your network determines your net worth, but how? I mean, you can swap business cards, “do lunch” and Facebook friend cool entrepreneurs you meet, but how do you turn connections into cash?

As an entrepreneur with my feet firmly planted in two industries, business and entertainment, I’ve had to become really great at networking to keep my business growing. I’ve made plenty of mistakes along the way and also learned simple, powerful ways to bring new people into my fold and go from having a stack of meaningless business cards on my desk to a Rolodex that feeds my bottom line.

Today I’m offering you 7 modern tips for connecting. They’re modern because these philosophies and strategies are ideal for the Gen Y entrepreneur who is creative, current, and successful. They promote authenticity and ignore stuffy, formulaic approaches.

1. Passion & Enthusiasm – Without the right attitude and approach to networking, it can come off phony, needy, or salesy. Think about your business – how do you enrich the lives of the people you serve? Forget about your mission statement for a second and think about what your clients say about you – what do they love most about you and what you do? There’s no reason to feel slimy or shy when you’re providing value. We’re all drawn to people who are enthusiastic about they do. There are people out there who need what you have, and networking is a platform for you to get your product or service into the hands of the right people. See yourself as a consultant. If you sell from a place of genuinely wanting to help and empower the people you meet, you no longer need to question whether you’re tooting your own horn or coming off as obnoxious. Always come from a desire to empower people in your network, and they will use you, refer others to you, and send opportunities your way.

2. A Stellar Introduction – Have you ever been to a seminar or networking event and seen that one person who always seems to have someone chatting them up? Those people aren’t always the most interesting people in the room even though it seems that way. Those are the people who usually have really awesome introductions. A great introduction is not an elevator pitch – it’s a one line story about you that says who you are, the outcome you create, and who you serve. Consider this example: A branding consultant wants to introduce himself at an event. There are 2 ways he could introduce himself.

A:  “Hi, I’m John and I’m a branding specialist.”
B: “Hey! I’m John, I show Gen Y entrepreneurs how to become rock stars in their industry using social media.”

Do we really want to hear more from introduction A? We’ve all been in a situation where we’re bored to tears listening to someone rattle off irrelevant jargon. Introduction B draws you in and creates a great conversation starter. By sharing the specific outcome you create, you demonstrate the value of your product or service. Furthermore, you plant an important seed in the mind of your listener. Perhaps they need your services or know someone who does. They can only accurately judge that if you deliver a clear, powerful introduction that draws them in.

3. Ask the right questions.  – Asking the right questions can help you cut through the rubbish and get to the bottom line. Rather than asking what someone does, ask how their product or service works. Ask them how you can help them go to the next level in their business and really listen to the answer. If you ask better questions, you get better answers which position you to offer expert advice and tailor your services to the needs of those you meet

4. Complete a network evaluation. –Before you go to that next mixer or networking event, take some time to evaluate your current network and the people in it. What kind of people do you attract? What kind of relationships have you built so far? Is your network stale? Do you need to spend some time connecting with the people in your current network and offering your services there before going after new clients? With business changing so rapidly, a period as short as six months can mean a completely different need or circumstance for your ideal client. Keeping your finger on the pulse of your current network helps you network more effectively in the future. After all, you can’t provide the highest value to those you meet if you’re not fully engaged with those you already know. Invest time in building relationships – not just creating them.

5. Create a networking target list. – What type of person do you need to connect with in order to grow your business? What gaps have you observed in your network? Every entrepreneur needs a well-rounded network to maintain a thriving business and career. After you’ve done a network evaluation, it’s easier to see who you might need to add to your network. Maybe you have a lot of finance professionals but you’re missing the creative types.  You might gravitate towards younger, trendy CEOs, but you know the wisdom of an industry veteran would be invaluable. Don’t be afraid to think big about the types of people who could empower you to expand your business. Whether it’s a celebrity, an industry titan, or your favorite Business author, consider what it would mean to have powerful people in your network then create a strategy to network with purpose.

6. Develop a networking strategy. – Showing up to every event you can find and swapping business cards does not a strategy make! Highly successful CEOs connect with purpose – they are clear about the type of people they want in their space, and they make it a point to seek out people who possess qualities or resources they need. A networking strategy should be written and should outline who you’d like to add to your network, why you want to add them, where they network/hang out, and how you intend to engage them once you make contact. Even if you only have prototypes of people i.e. creative types, thought leaders, techies, marketers, etc, you will be light years ahead of the average entrepreneur. As with everything else in life, clarity helps you discern the distractions from the opportunities. With a clear networking strategy, you can connect and engage with the right people who can benefit from what you do or help you increase your bottom line. Use your networking time wisely by being laser sharp in where you go and who you engage.

7. Build relationships. – You’ve probably heard that the fortune is in the follow up. Follow up is good, but relationship building is excellent. People spend money with those they know, like, and trust. You gain that trust by consistently engaging the people in your network in meaningful conversation and mutually beneficial exchanges. A simple follow up e-mail with an article is not enough anymore. If you can’t be bothered with really getting to know people and what makes them tick, you’ll struggle with developing those relationships that will mean the most to your bottom line. Jot down birthdays, anniversaries, and milestones of key people in your network and acknowledge those dates. Send handwritten thank you notes to people who have helped you or given you advice. Choose a handful people to have phone appointments or lunch with each month or each quarter. Share exciting news about your career or business. Remember that business people are people, and that means they want to feel important and be acknowledged, no matter what their title is or how successful they are. Make it a point to build relationships that last instead of fleeting communication.

Your network really does determine your net worth, but it’s not all about who you know – it’s also about who knows you and what they know about you. Using the secrets I’ve shared, your network will explode and even better, your bottom line will too.

Lisa Nicole Bell is a filmmaker and entrepreneur who empowers people all over the world to stop living on accident and start thriving on purpose. Her multimedia conglomerate, Inspired Life Media Group, has helped thousands of people transform their lives and create personal and professional success. Learn more about Lisa and her quest for world domination at www.lisanicolebell.com