Networking is hard.
The Coronavirus made it seem a hundred times harder.
All of that said, you have no reason to despair. Connecting with potential clients, customers, and collaborators has never been easier.
That’s why I italicized the word “seem.” People are stuck at home. And they’re desperate for human connection. Science confirms COVID-19 may increase suicide rates during and after the pandemic.
According to the CDC, 40% of American adults are struggling with substance abuse and mental health issues. Remember this context, because if you want to network safely and effectively during COVID-19, your success will depend on it.
What’s this have to do with networking? Everything.
Networking isn’t about you.
It should always be about the other person.
What happens when you receive an unsolicited sales pitch from a stranger?
You get annoyed, wonder why they chose to bother you, and delete the message.
And yet many people defy logic by implementing a networking strategy exactly like this.
Spoiler Alert: it won’t work. Other humans hate unsolicited sales pitches just like you do.
The best way to build a network? Provide value at scale.
People don’t care about you.
They care about how you can help them.
At a bare minimum, be armed with a genuine compliment.
For example, you might choose to connect with me after reading this article.
The easiest way to make me accept your connection request? Feed my ego. I’m not joking!
Say something like: “I read your networking advice on Pakwired and loved it! My favorite tip was ______.”
Apply the same reasoning to authors, bloggers, vloggers, podcast hosts, and content creators of any shape or form.
Most people jump straight to a sales pitch. If you act like an actual human and behave pleasantly, you’re already in the top 1%.
Apply the same reasoning to networking with potential clients.
The first thing to do?
Share an authentic compliment.
Maybe you love the look and feel of their website.
Perhaps you admire the mission or vision behind their business.
The second thing to do?
Ask an interesting or insightful question.
Pick a question that will encourage them to talk endlessly.
The more you learn about them, the easier it is to close a deal.
The third thing to do?
Explain why you chose to connect with them.
Emphasize their best qualities again for good measure.
Finally, share how you can help them be more effective and efficient.
Let’s explore a case study of networking done correctly.
Many people who read Pakwired are a freelancer.
Let’s assume you’re a freelance writer, blogger, or content creator.
And you’re searching for clients with websites where you can contribute.
So you find a beautiful website for a business that sells fitness products or services.
You could open the conversation by saying you admire their efforts to help people get fit and healthy.
This is especially powerful when you tie in your own personal experience. Stories are the best sales device on the planet.
“Hi ___. I’m a big fan of your efforts to help people lose fat. Not so long ago, I lost 30 pounds, and I’ve never felt so confident in my life.”
Obviously, don’t copy/paste that script and present it as your own. Only tell stories about events that actually happened. But you get the idea.
Now you should hand the microphone to your prospective client and let them talk.
Here are some good questions to ask:
“Are you planning to grow this website?”
“What inspired you to start this business?”
“Has COVID-19 impacted your business at all?”
“Where do you plan to take this venture in the future?”
“Do you feel content with your current online presence?”
“Why did you select this specific niche or target audience?”
Again, 99.9% of people try to sell prospects an offer immediately.
All you’ve gotta do is ask great questions to beat your competitors.
Time for the hardest part of any online networking strategy… are you ready?
Process the information.
Frame your offer based on the intel.
Sound hard? It is. But it’s the only way to win.
There’s no such thing as a sure-fire script to close any deal.
Anyone who says otherwise is a dirty liar. Stop following them.
Let’s presume the fitness blog owner has an online training package.
But they’ve had a hard time selling it, because people are out of work.
And you notice an opportunity to create content that solves their problem.
Maybe their blogs aren’t specific enough. Or perhaps they don’t update it often.
If they’re writing about the benefits of exercise but not the benefits of online training, say so.
If they’re only publishing one blog per month and you feel a weekly blog would help, mention it.
To stack the odds in your favor, you could offer to outline a content marketing strategy for their consideration.
And to lower their perceived risk, you could offer to write the first blog for a one-time fee before any contracts come into play.
The above reasoning can be applied in a million ways. Think about how to modify this approach. Then apply it to your freelance business.
Networking is scary when you’re shy. In closing, I’ll remove some pressure.
Remember how I opened this article?
COVID-19 has isolated the entire world.
People are suffering due to the social isolation.
Some folks haven’t seen friends or family members for months.
Depression, suicidal thoughts, and substance abuse are three common consequences.
Primarily, networking is about finding new clients or customers who might invest in your offer.
But you can’t do networking well without putting the other person first. There’s never been a better time to do that.
Forget about your business goals for a minute. And imagine how the individual on the other computer might be feeling.
If they’re like most folks, they’re sad and stressed. They might even be depressed. And they might be tempted to do drugs or end their life.
Scary stuff? Yes. But we live in scary times. There’s no good reason to pretend these problems don’t exist. Otherwise, they won’t get solved.
You also must empathize with how your clients or customers feel to succeed at networking online. That said, you might send a compliment that pulls them out of a dark mood.
Not only did you network with a prospect who might become a paying customer later. You also did a kind and heroic deed by improving their day. Don’t be shy and insecure. Choose to be a brave hero instead.