Making The Most Of Networking
In today’s ever-changing landscape of networking, it is easy to get lost in the shuffle. If you don’t utilize your networking tools to the best of your ability you are leaving business on the table. Old schoolers sometimes refuse to try on-line networking methods, and today’s younger generation sometimes feels that face-to-face networking is as out-of-date as an eight-track tape. But the truth is, both types of networking are still effective, provided you know how to use them.
The first rule: Always have business cards with you. When used appropriately all social situations can become business networking opportunities.
There are two basic types of face-to-face networking. The first is a social event. It can be a baseball game, cocktail party, or even a wedding. It is meant for socializing. Never try to sell at a social event. However, it is appropriate for you to use these opportunities to listen for ways that you can help.
Perhaps you overhear a conversation about a child struggling in math. You know an excellent math tutor. Simply walk up, introduce yourself, hand them your card (because you always have a card with you) and say, “I’m sorry to interrupt, I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation. My name is Joe; my number is on the card. I know an excellent math tutor who may be able to help your child, call me on Monday and I’ll give you his information.” You didn’t sell anything, you simply helped. You offered a free referral to someone else. You also handed out your card and created goodwill. Stay alert in social settings, you will be amazed at the opportunities.
A second type is a business event. It could be a trade show dinner, a chamber of commerce event, a meeting; any business event that puts you in front of new people.
Although these types of events are designed for business people to meet and interact, they should not necessarily be used for direct selling. Instead, use them for relationship building. Again, you listen. Let them tell you about their business. Listen for ways you can help them. By referring business to them you begin the process of relationship building.
Social and business networking events can open doors for future contact. Take personal notes on the back of a business card when you meet someone. If during the conversation you learn the person is a Yankees fan, jot that down on the back of his card. The next time you see a great article about the Yankees you can send it to him. You begin to build a relationship because you listened; you followed through on what was mentioned to you. In turn, they want to listen to you. They want to learn more about you, and they will like you, trust you, and will very likely either do or refer business to you in the future.
On-Line Social Networking
You want to use online networking in the same way you use face-to-face networking; to provide value. It can be an article that was helpful to you (like this blog perhaps). It might be a quote that seemed to speak to you, or a YouTube video that lists the top ten new business trends. You always want to share things with your network that can help them become more successful.
Join discussion groups. It gets your network talking and it provides you with the opportunity to get your name in front of people that aren’t already in your network. Don’t just join groups that are in your field of expertise. You want to reach clients who need what you do, not who do what you do.
Be careful with what you post, especially if your Facebook page is a combination of friends and professionals. Never post anything that you wouldn’t want a potential client to see.
Be nice. When you are online, you don’t have eye contact, voice inflection, or body language to help you deliver your message. Think not only about what you say, but about how you say it.
But, The single most important piece of advice I can offer regarding online social networking is to learn to use the tools appropriately and effectively. Take a course – because knowing how to use the tools is critical to your networking success. One excellent resource is a social networking guru named Kevin Knebl – look under the public events tab and click on webinars. It will be time well spent.
When you use networking to build relationships you will find that the sales will come naturally. You will be building a strong network of people who trust you and will want to do business with you and refer business to you. You help yourself when you help others. And best of all, networking is fun.