Networking in Knoxville 101
The Digital Age and the Internet of Things has drastically increased the opportunities for expanding your network. Social tools like LinkedIn and apps like CircleBack help you reach new contacts and maintain the relationships. However, there is still nothing as effective as good old-fashioned face-to-face networking. This is even more important in smaller markets like Knoxville where the idea of six degrees of separation really seems more like three degrees of separation. The Kevin Bacon factor is most certainly alive and well here in the 865. Below are some tips on how and where to network in Knoxville.
- It’s About Relationships, Not Transactions – In an age where you can order just about any product imaginable and have it delivered to your door within 48 hours, instant gratification has become an expectation. Toss that notion aside when you are networking. You should never go to an event, introduce yourself to someone new, and view that person as your next sale. Nothing turns people off more than a superficial conversation that finishes with someone trying to close a sale for a product or service they aren’t interested in. Instead, view that person as someone who might know someone who could lead to your next sale. By taking this approach, you are more likely to have an authentic conversation that provides the foundation for building a relationship.
- Rapport Isn’t Built in a Day – Just like Rome, it takes time to build rapport. After meeting someone new, make sure to seek them out at other events, call them by name, and re-engage in relationship building. Consider non-verbal signals you are sending the person. Are you looking them in the eye, focused on them, and smiling? Another key to rapport building is to make sure you are a proverbial fountain and not a drain. If you are someone who complains about everything, chances are when people see you coming, they will walk the other way.
- It’s a Small World, and Knoxville is Even Smaller – Never underestimate the power of a network and don’t let it get you into trouble. When you start talking business with someone, don’t prop yourself up by speaking badly about a competitor, because chances are the person you are talking to might know the very person or people you are disparaging. Reference the “be a fountain not a drain” concept, above.
- It’s Not All About You – Every successful relationship is built on the idea of give and take. Building business relationships through networking isn’t any different. This notion can be conveyed as simply as asking for the person’s card, prior to offering your own. As you are talking with them, ask yourself how you might be able to help them. Is there someone else in your network you should connect them with to help them be successful? It might not be to help them sell their product or service. It might be a connection that could help mentor them, or maybe they are looking for a new job and you know someone who could help. However you give, chances are your gesture will be reciprocated.
- Pay It Forward – How many times have you been at a networking event, engaging with your network, and noticed someone across the room that looks as uncomfortable as a pig at a barbeque? Everyone who has networked at an event has found themselves at some point or time in a room full of people who have seemingly known each other for decades. Being that guy or gal is never fun. Next time you see someone who looks like they know no one, reach out a hand, introduce yourself and start building a new relationship. They could be your Kevin Bacon.
Next month, learn about some of the best places to put these tips to work for you!