Sometimes I get to the end of the week and with the exception of my husband, daughter and the Shipt delivery guy I haven’t had a face to face conversation with anyone.
Sometimes it’s not until the end of the week that I even realize this has happened!
Does this ever happen to you too?
It’s easy to slip into a routine of staying at home, especially there’s a big project to complete or goal to achieve.
The truth is working from home can get a little lonely and lead to a feeling of being out of the loop.
Face- to-face conversations are important when you work from home, for both personal AND business development reasons.
So how can you overcome lack of face to face interaction of working at home so you can develop and nurture business relationships?
The answer is professional online Virtual Networking the new way to grow your business.
Why Networking Matters for Your Business
Before we get into Virtual Networking for business development, I want to take a minute to talk about networking more generally. When you think about business networking what comes to mind?
Do you think of Chamber of Commerce lunches where you sit at a table listening to a lunch speaker and leave with little person to person interaction?
Or do you think of happy hour networking events full of fake smiles listening to people talk about products and services you have no interest in?
I’m here to let you know that networking is so much more than either of those things. And it’s also so much more enjoyable!
Good and useful networking is about growing and nurturing relationships. You are looking for a match, kind of like dating. (If you hate dating still stick with me a little longer!)
Networking can refer to growing and nurturing any type of professional relationship, including colleagues.
There is no question that sales are absolutely necessary for the survival of any business, however business networking is about more than sales or client acquisition.
Networking is also a fantastic path to find mentors, business besties and colleagues to collaborate with.
The great news is with free video technology Virtual Networking can be done while working at home.
Whether in person or virtual nothing replaces a face to face interaction for business development.
Different Types of Networking for Different Relationship Goals
The best business networking tip to successfully grow your circle of influence is to use different networking tactics. Choose tactics based on your goals and desired outcomes for the relationships.
If you are always selling, it makes it hard to develop a network of people who know like and trust you.
But if you never ask your network for referrals or a sale then it makes it really hard to stay in business.
The key to balancing this is to know your specific goal, the outcome you home to achieve, for each business relationship.
Approach each person, group of people or networking event with that end goal in mind.
The Benefits of Professional Networking When You Work at Home
When you work at home the benefits of professional networking are even more important to growing a business.
Do you ever feel out of the loop? Networking helps relieve the feelings of loneliness and isolation that come from looking at your own four walls all day every day.
And by building new relationships and nurturing existing ones you will find your team, your tribe your colleagues.
When you have a new service, course or e-book you want to get the word out so you can start selling it, right?
What do you do first?
If you’re like me, when you have something to sell, you reach out to people who know like and trust you and ask them who in to share it with the people in their network who might be interested.
The key element that makes what I do work is that I have built an existing network of people who know, like and trust me.
I have spent time cultivating, growing and nurturing relationships when I didn’t need anything from them.
When you work at home it is really easy to get lazy about putting on professional clothes and connecting with the outside world.
And that’s what’s so great about professional Virtual Networking.
It is the perfect face to face alternative to in-person relationship development when you work at home.
What is Virtual Networking?
Professional Virtual Networking is the new way to network in business. Virtual Networking uses video technology to allow you to build, grow and nurture relationships from the comfort of your home.
It provides you the opportunity to connect face to face with new, warm and future clients. And it offers great opportunities for professional development.
To make the most out of Virtual Networking you are going to need a couple things including access Video Conference Call line.
What you don’t need is expensive video networking software.
There are number of video networking options at various price points including Skype, Zoom and WebEx to name a few. Many include free options.
For professional development virtual networking free apps like Facebook Groups and Marco Polo work well too.
Three ways to Prepare for a Virtual Networking Meeting
1. Prepare Questions to Ask
One of the hardest things about networking is knowing what questions to ask. This is the same for virtual networking.
The same as it can get awkward in a coffee shop if no one has anything to talk about the same thing can happen during virtual coffee.
Prepare some questions in advance for one-on-one virtual networking events or meeting.
Do a little industry research ahead of time and check out what the person (people) have recently posted or commented about on LinkedIn.
Congratulate them on something they have recently accomplished and ask them to tell you more about it.
The great thing about online business virtual networking is that you can have a cheat sheet of notes and questions to refer to but no else has to know.
Also, remember your goal for the relationship and frame your questions around the outcome you hope to achieve.
2. Prepare a Professional Looking Background
Because the goal is to build professional relationships, you should also have an area in your home with a professional background to do the video calls from.
If you need to create a professional background, consider hanging up a few downloadable prints from Etsy. You can get frames for them reasonably priced at Michael’s or Hobby Lobby.
3. Prepare Yourself for Success
The old adage dress for the job you want not the one you have applies to professional virtual networking too.
No one will know if you are wearing yoga or pajama pants. But I would encourage you to brush your hair and put on a shirt you wouldn’t be embarrassed to be seen in at a coffee shop.
You want to present yourself as a professional colleague. Someone the business network you are developing would be confidante referring to their network.
Ways to Grow Your Professional Network with Virtual Networking
1. Virtual Coffee Meeting
I love doing virtual coffee meetings. A virtual coffee meeting usually consists of two people having a face-to-face conversation using a video conference line.
You can use a virtual coffee meeting for so many things.
Do you ever feel like you could be friends with someone in a Facebook group? Or maybe you want to collaborate with someone who you’ve met in a Facebook Group?
Invite that person for virtual coffee or tea. Set aside 30 minutes to talk by video conference call just like you would if you were meeting up at a local coffee shop.
Or, if you are looking for guidance in your business use a virtual coffee meeting the same way college students use information interviews.
A video conference call is an easy way for someone to give you 20-30 minutes of their time to talk about their business experiences. Face-to face interaction creates a professional relationship then a phone call.
A virtual coffee chat is also a great way to keep in touch with your mentor or offer your knowledge to a mentee.
2. Virtual Summit
One of the easiest ways to meet new people and gain visibility for your business is by participating in a Virtual Summit.
Webinar networking opportunities like Virtual Summits often take a lot of up front effort but participation can result in a huge payoff.
Participating in a Virtual Summits give you an opportunity to be seen by people who are a warm audience. They have taken the time to show up to hear what you have to say.
3. Facebook Groups
A fantastic place to grow a network for your business in in Facebook Groups.
The easiest way to start a conversation is to ask someone about something you have in common. Facebook groups are full of people who are interested in similar topics as you.
An easy way to build of camaraderie in a Facebook group is to start a side conversation on messenger. Make sure you reference something from the Facebook Group so the other person doesn’t think you are a stalker!
You can also host or participate in Facebook Lives.
If there is a Facebook Group you participate in, that your product or services would be a good fit for, try reaching out to the host and offer to speak to their group but NOT sell to their group.
The goal of speaking to someone else’s Facebook Group is to be a knowledge resource. Sharing what you know is a great way to grow a network of people who know, like and trust you.
If the Live goes well the host may promote your product and services for you.
Doing lives on your own Facebook page is a great way to sell directly to people who are interested in you and your product or service.
4. Virtual Co-Working
I have been participating in a Virtual Co-Working Group and I love this work at home virtual networking option.
With today’s technology you can virtually work among others as if you were in a co-work space while you work from home.
Co-work spaces were created with the intention to give Solopreneurs a space to create community and collaborate for the benefit of growing their business.
As someone who participates in a Virtual Co-Work group, I can attest to the collaboration and community that can occur in them.
There are many different ways to set up or participate in a Virtual Co-Work Group.
The more your group works together the more you will get to know each other, each other’s skills, talents and areas of specialization.
As you nurture and grow the relationships in your virtual co-working group you will find cheerleaders and collaborators for your business endeavors.
5. Virtual Accountability Group
If you are a goal setter or have a goal to be better at achieving your goals then a Virtual Accountability Group is a fantastic option for you.
The networking goal of an accountability group is to develop relationships with a group of goal oriented people who can help you reach your goals.
When you are part of a virtual accountability group the women in this group will get to know your professional and personal highs and lows. You will need to trust them, and they will need to trust you.
As a recovering goal setting rebel I have a love-hate with accountability groups.
I have finally overcome my ambivalence of goal making after reading the book the 12 Week Year. Accountability groups are a key element of the 12 Week Year plan.
The best way to find an accountability group is to create one or find one in a Facebook Group.
- Ask a solopreneur you know to join you and offer them the opportunity to invite another person.
- Set a standing time/day each month to set up a video call to talk about where you are on your goal list.
6. Virtual Mastermind Group
A Virtual Mastermind Group can be very different then a virtual accountability group.
The goal of most Mastermind Groups is more then goal accountability. It includes visioning, problem solving and education.
Many Virtual Mastermind Groups also result in community and collaboration because the more you get to know someone the more you are likely to like and trust them.
Virtual Masterminds groups take on two primary formats like in-person Mastermind Groups. Some are led by a designated leader and others are a small group collaboration.
You can join a Virtual Mastermind Group or create one of your own.
Create your own virtual networking activity – invite people to join you for an activity like creating vision boards or a book club. Or join the Work from Home Simplified Book Club Facebook Group.
Virtual Networking is a great way to grow your business network when you work from home. You can also nurture the circle of people who know like and trust you without leaving your home!
Gain visibility for your business and grow your professional network by participating in the Virtual Networking activities. Choose from the following activities based on your goals for developing an nurturing relationships:
- Virtual Coffee Meeting
- Virtual Summit
- Facebook Groups
- Virtual Co-Working
- Virtual Accountability Group
- Virtual Mastermind Group
People are more likely to refer other people that they know – get to know more people virtually today!