You want to be awesome at networking? Here are seven ways to generate more prospects, more referrals, more business, more job interviews (if you’re in between careers!), or more of just about anything you might be looking for!
Understand What Networking Is
Networking is a proactive (although sometimes reactive) approach to meeting people to learn from and potentially help. That is, if you like them, they like you, and it makes sense. If you help great people get what they want, they tend to help you right back. That’s networking! Has that been your approach?
Determine Your Specific Purpose
What is yours? Are you looking for more business, to land a job, establish new friends, learn a new skill, or solve a specific challenge? Or all of the above? Be very specific about the type of business or client (industry, profession, market segment, geography) you want to generate, type of job, and so on so you can be very clear on where you need to go, what you need to say, and with whom. Otherwise, it may be difficult to put the right networking game plan into place!
Go to the Right Places
Pick your particular group and get involved. Chambers, networking groups, meet ups, community service groups, alumni organizations, online groups, or my favorite – professional associations. Or my favorite, favorite – start your own group! Get those that you know and want to know better into a regular routine of meeting and ultimately exchanging referrals. It can be as formal as you like as long as everyone is “like-minded” and there for the same reasons. You don’t need to attend every networking meeting in town, but if you pick one or two groups that make sense, it’s a great start! The most important part of attending or even better, joining a group, is to make things happen, don’t just show up and expect things to happen.
Meet the Right People
Who are your true prospects? Really be specific here. Now, who are your best referral sources? Again, specifics! Think about the industry or profession you serve best and therefore wish to serve most! Who do you already know that is in your target market? Or can be an excellent referral partner? You can set up phone meetings with these important contacts today! Just make sure you don’t make it all about you. Instead, explore ways you might help or refer one another. That arrangement tends to lead to the best relationships.
Say the Right Things
Know how to introduce yourself – “Hello, my name is….” Start off by asking great questions about them – questions that you would want them to ask of you. What brings you to this meeting? Do you know anyone here? How did you learn of this meeting? What kind of work do you do? What makes you different from others in your profession? How do you market your business? What does a perfect client look like for you? How would you make a great referral partner? And so on. Keep your questions open ended and curious. When they ask questions about you, be specific (do you see a theme?) and succinct with your answers. Don’t go on and on or take over the conversation. Most conversations go best when all parties have a say in the matter so keep the air time as balanced as possible.
What’s the point of meeting great people if you don’t follow up with them afterward? That is if there is a good connection and there is a good reason to set up another conversation. The whole follow up thing should be established toward the end of your conversation. Does it make sense to exchange cards? It would be great to follow up with you to learn more and explore ways to help (or refer) one another! Ask them about next steps. In fact, take the initiative to take next steps. Just make sure you do what you say you will do when you say you will do it. (Did you get that?)
Stay in Touch
After getting to know one another, if it makes sense, brainstorm ways to stay in touch, learn more, develop the relationship, and create added value to the partnership. Networking pays off when you establish a system to stay in touch with the right people, in the right way, for the right reasons, at the right pace. I know there must be a really cool mathematical formula for this but I haven’t figured it out yet. It’s probably something like the more genuine effort you can put into a relationship where both sides benefit, the more both sides will benefit.
Networking and developing relationships takes time and effort. So, take the time and make the effort.
The payoff is awesome.