You already know it’s critically important to actively network. But how you network is of even greater importance because you don’t want to put people off. Following are some tips for developing mutually respectful relationships and reciprocity.
- Know what you want and be specific in your request. When you ask for someone’s help, be specific with your request. If you are unfocused, then you are not being mindful of the other person’s time (not to mention you are not getting the results you truly need for your own purposes) – and they are not going to give you more time later down the line because you’ve completely irritated them. Map out in advance the questions you have, write them down, and when you ask someone for their help, share this list with them in advance so they are also prepared to answer them. Additionally, in your request, ask for a specific amount of time (i.e. 15 minutes or whatever duration is realistic to get your needs met and be respectful of the other person’s time). And, when that time elapses, your time is up, unless the other person continues to show great interest and drives the conversation forward.
- “Give, give, get”. I love this quote by Angela Jia Kim of Savor the Success. Do not expect others to give to you unless you are willing to give to others. That means you are giving (valuable information) more than you are getting in the long term, but when you do get, the payoff can be big. So, stay connected/dialed in to targeted networking groups/social media and provide value-added tips wherever/whenever you can (see #3 below). To emphasize, the key is giving timely and valuable information so as to not put off others. Irrelevant and one sided/braggy information is not well received. The learning curve to getting your product on the retail shelf, especially in larger retailers, is huge. The more people who are rallying for you, the better. Even the most simple tips that are shared from one product owner to another can pay off big. A bonus: when you give authentically, it makes you feel good.
- Network in like minded groups. Be targeted with where you spend your time networking. As a product-based entrepreneur, we have similar goals: expanding retail distribution, increasing our profit margins, improving systems, maximizing marketing spend, etc. So, join product-based entrepreneur groups that encourage reciprocation amongst like-minded participants. When we come together and collectively share resources, strategies, and ideas, the sum is greater than its parts.