Why you MUST 10X your network in 2021 and beyond

The pandemic has changed so much about the world and the way we do business. And that includes the way we network.

The traditional ways of meeting up for a coffee or a meeting at the office have drastically changed. But just because networking has gone digital for the most part (connecting online, using meeting technology such as Zoom, etc.), doesn’t mean it’s harder to do.

In fact, right now there is a huge opportunity for you to 10X your network and build a global business with international corporate clients!

Having a global network is an essential success strategy if you want to succeed now, and in a post-COVID world. It’s never been easier. It’s never been more accessible. Everything is virtual and everything HAS to be done this way for at least the next few months or longer, so why not take advantage of it?  

For example, I was a member of a BNI (Business Network International) Toronto chapter where members met every week in person with the intention of making referrals. I joined in February 2020, and literally, the next week, we went into lockdown! However, the huge benefit was that our weekly meetings went virtual (using Zoom, of course), and as a member, we could attend any of the 250 BNI chapters in the world! As a result, I was referred to a guest who attended from Ireland, and now I’m working with 2 amazing clients from Ireland!

There’s another important factor you need to consider when networking, and that’s mindset and what the purpose of networking is. 

If you would rather avoid networking all together or if you don’t have a sound strategy for it, it doesn’t matter if you are doing virtual or in-person networking, you will literally leave money on the table! 

The most important mindset piece for networking is this:

Don't focus on what your network can do for you but what you can do for your network!

In addition, there are three objectives to networking: 

#1 Increasing your visibility. 

#2 Learning what opportunities are out there. 

#3 Staying current.

The #1 Opportunity – You’ve Got an Unusually Juicy Opportunity to Be Your Prospect’s Eyes and Ears

When consultants and small business owners like you are looking to expand their network to get introductions and referrals to corporate clients, it doesn’t just help them get potential business, it does something even greater – it can help YOU be the eyes and ears of corporate leaders who are heavily in insular mode right now as they have to keep their attention on what’s right in front of them while they continue navigating the new way we’re all doing business.

Corporate leaders aren’t able to travel to trade shows, symposiums, conferences, and the like where the sharing of ideas can spawn innovation. This is where they’re missing their global shoulder-to-shoulder “think tank”, so you can be this for them!  

In order to do that, you need to bring relevant insights, ideas and best practices to the table when you are courting your corporate prospects. The value this bring is enormous in terms of helping them navigate current trends, change management, the virtual workplace, and so much more.

My collaborative business partner, Chris McGirr and I, co-authored a white paper titled Corporate Predictions 2021 around what corporate leaders need from consultants and small business owners and it was our overarching, concluding insight!

Common Networking Roadblocks

You wait to get referrals: Many times, consultants who opt for starting their own business, take it for granted that they’ll have an unending supply of referrals coming from colleagues past and present. Others will hit up their network after they’ve made the transition to let others know what they’re doing. But once their warm network has been mined, they stop, mistakenly thinking there’s no where else to turn. 

  • Action Step: Be pro-active and start reaching out with the intention of expanding your network. Be clear about what your intention is – which is to have a conversation to build your respective networks (ie. ask for 2 people they recommend you talk to) and then ask them what you can do for them in return. 

You don’t want to be obvious: You might be hesitant to reach out to your immediate network (or beyond) as you don’t want to bother people or people you don’t know. You may not know what to ask so that your message comes across as authentic. You may even worry about asking for a recommendation. In other words, you feel intimidated, so you procrastinate and do nothing.

  • Action Step: Be pro-active and start reaching out with a customized message to connect that is relevant to the person you want to engage with and be deliberate about your ask. You’ll never know what might happen unless you start!

Going to networking events without purpose: While in-person events have transferred online, the reason to attend should be the same. However, many consultants make the mistake of attending an event that isn’t aligned with what they do or without researching and vetting who will be there to ensure it will provide the most value.

  • Action Step: Take 15 or 20 minutes to really dig deep into the background of the event and those who are speaking/moderating. Check out who the intended audience is. Determine if it’s right for your business. Be sure to look up everyone on LinkedIn!

You don’t capitalize on using LinkedIn: Did you know that LinkedIn generates 80% of B2B business leads over other social media platforms? And not surprisingly, as the largest professional network in the world, LinkedIn continues to see record levels of engagement during the pandemic. In fact, LinkedIn reports that conversations on the platform were up 55% in 2020. Additionally, here are some great tips from LinkedIn’s blog, Building Your Network in a Virtual World.

You can also reach out to LinkedIn expert Sabita Singh for guidance on how to follow LinkedIn’s etiquette to slowly build relationships online without being too pushy. Connect with Sabita at linkedin.com/in/sabitasingh

  • Action Step: Take 10 minutes out of your day and start actively engaging with the posts in your LinkedIn news feed. Just simply liking, commenting or sharing other people’s posts can significantly increase your visibility and provide timely opportunities to connect. 

You don’t take advantage of technology: Have you researched tech tools that can help you network? For instance, Get Prospect is a plugin for LinkedIn that allows you to get the email addresses of corporate decision makers. 

  • Action Step: Besides using technology for finding contact information, you can also do simple things like enhancing your email signature to concisely reflect your Unique Value Proposition. And use automated calendar scheduling tools like Calendly or Acuity to make it easy for people you’re networking with to book a meeting.

You don’t know how to hold a great networking conversation. You don’t need me to tell you that time is of the essence and first impressions are so, so, SO important. 

Here are 2 key tips for that networking meeting:

  • Open the meeting with a purpose for the meeting and agenda for what you BOTH will get out of the discussion.
  • Be sure to be reciprocal in your request – be sure to ask what you can do for them.

You don’t give it the time and attention it deserves. You can’t build a business waiting and hoping for people to find you. You have to reach out to find them. And it doesn’t have to be as lengthy and tedious as you think. And quite frankly, there’s never been a better time to 10x your network and build a global business because everyone is at home!

  • Action Step: Start today and commit yourself to giving a concerted effort to network regularly!

Don’t be shy – you CAN do this!

For more in-depth information on how 10Xing your network can make a huge difference in your business, download our free report Corporate Predictions 2021: The Must-Have Guide for Consultants and Small Business Owners to Get in the Door and Meet the Needs of Corporate Clients in Our Shifting Marketplace

About the author

Kim Chernecki helps high-performing freelance executives, consultants, coaches and other experts, land lucrative corporate contracts. She is the creator of the Land Corporate Contracts Fast-Track System, and is a top-rated sales performance executive, facilitator, coach, advisor, speaker and strategist. A 25-year entrepreneur, Kim has consulted with executives from 100+ leading North American and Fortune 1000 companies and has, herself, started up and helped grow 10 businesses and business divisions. She’s closed millions of dollars in corporate contracts, and provides powerful strategies and proven formulas to help her clients do the same.

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