The Secrets of Networking — A How To Guide
Networking remains one of the many cornerstones of successful, rapidly growing start-ups. Without it, founders might struggle to uncover business and development opportunities, raise funds, connect with mentors, you name it! The purpose of networking for founders, though, is slightly yet significantly different from that of networking in general, primarily driven by it’s unique purpose. An understanding of these nuances is one characteristic that helps separate your average tech company from your multi-million dollar unicorn start-up.
Although every step in this article lends a hand to a strong networking session, they are most efficient when strung together. For that, it’s best to create a clear purpose: to establish guidelines specific to each event that subconsciously act as the common foundation for current and future action-items between a start-up and its prospective investors, clients, and programs.
With so many events occurring in Israel’s ecosystem, and so many participants at each one, understanding the key events and players is crucial. Consider any large-scale innovation event. There, unprepared participants would scramble to engage the handful of relevant speakers amidst thousands of attendees. Prepared participants would thrive.
Recognize, by face and name, important individuals and groups. Do you have mutual friends? Can you bond over hobbies or interests? How is your company a good fit for their portfolio? How can you both benefit from establishing a strong relationship?
If you need an easy template to follow:
Determine which events are beneficial to you based on the expected future audience.
Sort through a list of participants, keeping an eye out for a few that fit your clear purpose.
Research those select few (on LinkedIn, for example) to understand their background, interests, and professional aspirations.
Prepare several talking points based on your research that can pave the way for strong relationships with relevant individuals. (See “Make Friends, Not Connections” below)
At this point, you should have some sense of what your pitch consists of. Prior to each event, review and sharpen this pitch, making sure to keep it flexible. Conversations rarely go exactly as planned, but a simple pre-planned pitch leaves room for dynamic changes.
Additionally, avoid the mistake of repeating your pitch robotically; understand the value of personalized small talk (See “Make Friends, Not Connections” below), and simply sprinkle your pitch points through the conversation.
Make Friends, Not Connections
If I ask you to think of someone you trust, someone who you would want to help, would you think of a “friend,” or a “connection?” If you thought of a friend, you’re not alone. Most people are naturally more inclined to help those they feel closer to. Your job is to enter that exclusive inner-circle of “friends” — to not just become a single contact among thousands in a large database.
Although there are dozens of ways to befriend a stranger, one of the most effective is to prepare talking points that are unique and memorable. For example, if you absolutely LOVE surfing, and someone came up to you and (somehow) steered the conversation towards surfing, chances are you’d remember them (as weird as that would be in a professional environment).
Leave a positive impression similar to that of a good friend. Let investors and customers look forward to responding to your follow-up email as much as you look forward to sending it.
So, you’ve made your spectacular first impression. You even added your new contacts on LinkedIn (before you ask: yes, you should do this). Great work! The networking process isn’t over just yet, though. Unless your name is Warren Buffett, you can’t always expect investors or potential customers to reach out to you first.
A common rule-of-thumb is to send a follow-up email the morning or day after the event. Send it earlier and you may appear too pushy. Send it later and you risk seeming uninterested.
Keep in mind that you want the follow-up email to be unique to each recipient. Thank them for speaking with you about your mutual interest in surfing, for example. Be professional, but friendly. As importantly, if you previously discussed an action-item, bring it up! Open the door for collaboration in the near future.
The networking process is extremely complex, with thousands of possible interactions to prepare for. Yes, you should have a clear purpose behind every event. Yes, you should research participants and know your selling points. But without being active in the networking process and flexible along the way work done prior to the event could be for nothing. Be proactive. Be adaptable. Be yourself. And make friends. Money will surely follow.
Our team at Samurai Incubate Israel is dedicated to taking ventures from the very basic stages to greater heights, and to later connecting them to the Japanese market. With our large community in Israel and our strong connection to the ecosystem and corporate world in both countries, our team is constantly looking to create and strengthen the bridge between Japan and Israel by combining Japan’s industry with Israel’s cutting-edge technology and innovative spirit.
For further information, check our website — https://www.samurai-incubate-israel.asia/