Networking is essential no matter what business or position you are in. We are living in a new world and in this world we are all basically “self-employed”. Experts agree that today there is no such thing as job security. Our country is experiencing corporate downsizing and the hiring of freelance consultants, and/or self-employed workers are increasing by the day. Networking is the most important skill you will need to learn, develop and implement in order to get ahead and survive these uncertain times.
I have been networking heavily since moving to Maine last August. I am trying to expand my business in the New England market as well as nationwide. I have attended more networking events and made more marketing calls this month than I have in many years. During this period of heavy networking I have noticed many things. I have noticed many people do not use networking to its fullest, many opportunities are lost due to lack of follow through and there are lots of opportunities out there to take advantage of if you are willing to do the work.
Using Networking to It’s fullest If you are going to take time and attend networking events, why not get the most out of them. Yet as I have been out networking these past few months I have noticed that many people attend these events and do nothing to network. It can be safe and easy to just sit in the corner and watch. But by just observing the event – you will never get anything out of it. Many say networking doesn’t work for them and I agree it doesn’t work if you don’t work at it.
Some ways to make the most out of each networking event are:
- Introduce yourself to at least five people at each event.
- Don’t do all the talking. Ask questions, take the time to get to know others and learn about their business. People love to talk and you can learn a lot by listening.
- Smile. I know this is simple but it is important. I have noticed many people at these events who look as though they are bored to death and not wanting to connect with anyone. Just smile and others will notice you.
- Exchange business cards with people you want to follow up with.
- Ask people you meet what other networking events they attend and which ones they find most beneficial.
- Have fun.
Follow Through Follow through seems like a no-brainer but it isn’t always easy. We all live very busy lives and follow through takes time. Yet if done consistently it can have a huge impact on your business or personal life. I try to respond via email to all new people I meet within 24 hours. I schedule 10 minutes at the end of each day for follow-up. Just following up will set you apart as a professional and that alone will grow your business. I am amazed at the lack of follow through or follow up in the business world today. If you want to set yourself apart, follow up and follow through.
Take Advantage of Opportunities There are so many great opportunities in the business community for networking and professional development – take advantage of them. Many of these events are free and others are often offered at a low cost. Take some time and research events in your area and then go attend.
Create a Networking Plan Networking is no different than any other area of our life, if we don’t plan for it, it won’t happen. Make a monthly plan that includes at least one networking event and put it in your calendar. I have a plan that includes: events I will attend, number of emails I will send, number of calls I will make and number of meetings I will schedule. My plan allows me to continually focus on growing my business and my business relationships.
Developing Excellent Practices Seven Keys to Excellent Networking
Create an elevator speech. Prepare one or two sentences describing your business. Being prepared when someone asks you what you do it’s easier than making something up on the fly. Start with people you know. Begin networking with people you already know. If you are looking to grow your business or need to move on in your career, start by asking people you know for contacts and ideas. Be concerned with others. Networking is not just about you or what you can get out of it – it’s about what you can give to others. The more concerned you are with the success of others – the more successful you will be. Be genuine. People can spot a phony. In order to be an effective networker you must be genuine in your approach to others. Give. Be willing to give and help others. Giving referrals or help to another makes them remember you. Build relationships. Networking is about building relationships. The key to doing business with another person is developing a relationship of trust and mutual respect. Time spent building business relationships is time well spent. Be patient. Networking takes time. You will not go to one event and achieve results. It requires a consistent effort and it takes work. Follow through. When someone gives you a lead or you meet a new person make sure you follow up right away. Follow up is the key to successful networking.
Questions to Ponder: How am I doing with networking? How could I develop my networking skills this month?
Quotes to Repeat: “It's all about people. It's about networking and being nice to people and not burning any bridges.” Mike Davidson
“It's about acquiring the discipline of practicing. It's about sportsmanship. It's about developing friendships and networking. It's about having a coach and working with a coach/teacher, which is what life is all about.” Lynn Davies
“Networking is an essential part of building wealth.” Armstrong Williams
"The successful networkers I know, the ones receiving tons of referrals and feeling truly happy about themselves, continually put the other person's needs ahead of their own." Bob Burg
Michelle Neujahr is a business consultant, national speaker and author. Michelle currently works with businesses who want to develop excellent business practices. Prior to beginning Neujahr Development Company, she owed a large construction firm, specializing in both residential and commercial construction. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via her Web site at www.michelleneujahr.com.