How to Get ROI From Your Networking Efforts

February 23, 2009 at 4:51 pm | Posted in entrepreneurship, Networking, sales | Leave a comment

Have you noticed the ever-growing number of networking groups? While there was once only a handful of opportunities to network at Chamber of Commerce breakfasts and local trade association get-togethers, you know have to decide among the thousands of online and offline groups that seem to be sprouting up on a daily basis.

The problem is that you only have so much time in the day. If you joined every networking group out there, you’d inevitably be meeting some useful contacts, but you’d have little time for anything else. To effectively make connections and save your sanity in this age of hyper-networking, you need to be selective. The following five tips will help you filter through the vast and sometimes murky world of business networking to find the groups that can offer you the greatest ROI from your networking efforts.

Define Your Networking Style

With countless networking events, you have the ability to choose what type works best for you. Speed networking, cocktail parties, conferences, informative seminars, online get-togethers – each format has its own unique advantages and disadvantages. You most likely will gravitate to one or two types of events. That’s ok. You’re better off sticking with attending only the activities in which you have the highest comfort level.

Do Your Homework before You Commit

Once you’ve found a handful of groups that are in line with your networking style, research the types of members, their companies, and the focus of the group. Don’t be afraid to attend a group’s events two or three times to get a feel for their dynamics. You may love it, or you might find that it’s not in synch with your goals, interests, or personality. The key is not to commit yourself to anything until you are confident that it’s a good fit for you.

Stay Focused on What You Can Give

Many networkers leave groups frustrated because they feel that they are not getting enough. Yet, they haven’t put any effort into giving. As in the famous words of the Beatles, “The love you take is equal to the love you make.” This certainly applies to networking. Always think about what you can give and offer to your contacts before you ask for or expect anything from them. Once you begin to focus your energy on helping others, you’ll quickly find that they are enthusiastic about helping you!

Follow Up and Follow Through

Interestingly, it may seem like you’re networking at the events you attend, but in reality, the true networking doesn’t actually begin until afterwards. If you neglect to follow up or connect with the contacts you’ve made, you’re merely socializing and not networking at all. It’s 100% about how you maintain those connections that will determine your level of success.

Be Realistic

The reality is that not every networking connection you make will be able to produce leads and referrals to you. Yes, you need to be helping others, but you also have to devote the bulk of your energy to cultivating your most valuable resources. Assess each contact and determine how you can work together. If there just isn’t a great deal of potential with a particular connection, it’s ok to minimize your dealings with him or her. Both of you will be better off shifting energies to others who will be more beneficial. 

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