Like any businessman, coach and consultant, I spend a fair amount of my time moving around the marketplace, making sure I know what’s going on, and keeping in touch with friends and colleagues. It’s just second nature, really.
I don’t go to networking events just to drum up business. I go to maintain comradeship, to learn what’s going on, to seek new ideas, and to contribute my own opinions, support and friendship to the process. When I remember that’s what I am doing, I find business pops up in the most unexpected places!
So I took a moment today to jot down my “Ten Successful Strategies For Networking”. They seem obvious, but I often forget them, so writing them down was a useful reminder to me, too!
Effective business networking is the linking together of individuals who, through trust and relationship building, become walking, talking advertisements for one another.
THE TOP TEN TIPS
Always keep in mind that networking is about being genuine and authentic, building trust and relationships, and seeing how you can help others.
Ask yourself what your goals are in participating in networking meetings so that you will pick groups that will help you get what you are looking for. Some meetings are based more on learning, making contacts, and/or volunteering rather than on strictly making business connections. In my world, it’s often about philanthropic or community pursuits, and I find I like the people I meet in that space. Funnily enough, it always seems dead easy to do business with people I like!
Visit as many groups as possible that spark your interest. Notice the tone and attitude of the group. Do the people sound supportive of one another? Does the leadership appear competent? Many formal networking groups like you to visit a few times before joining – that’s a good sign.
Hold volunteer positions in organizations. This is a great way to stay visible and give back to people and groups that have helped you.
Ask open-ended questions in networking conversations. As we all know, this means questions that ask who, what, where, when, and how as opposed to those that can be answered with a simple yes or no. This form of questioning opens up the discussion and shows listeners that you are interested in them. But you know what? it doesn’t involve talking about yourself, and you can’t fake it. If you’re not genuinely interested in other people, don’t bother networking. No one likes a self-interested fake.
Become known as a powerful resource for others. Never stint on helping other people.Never see it as an imposition, always an opportunity. When you are known as a strong resource, people remember to turn to you for suggestions, ideas, names of other people, etc. This keeps you visible to them even when you aren’t trying to be.
Have a clear understanding of what you do and why, for whom, and what makes your doing it special or different from others doing the same thing. In order to get referrals, you must first have a clear understanding of what you do that you can easily articulate to others. If it takes longer than three or four sentences, then it’s too long. I am working on this!
Be able to articulate what you are looking for and how others may help you. Too often people in conversations ask, “How may I help you?” and you are so dumbstruck to be asked such a helpful question that no immediate answer comes to mind.
Follow through quickly and efficiently on any referrals you are given. When people give you referrals, your actions are a reflection on them. Respect and honor that – treat their contacts with the utmost respect and professionalism – and referrals will grow as night follows day.
Make a point to call those you meet who may benefit from what you do and vice versa. Just express that you enjoyed meeting them, and ask if they would like to get together and share ideas again. No one ever feels “put upon” by such a courteous “follow up”.
There you go – easy! Do you have another tip that you would like to share? Please do!