The Rules in the Networking Playground

December 16, 2011 at 5:32 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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This is a post that I did some time ago but my recent, less than spectacular networking experiences, have indicated a definite need to post this again.

More than ever, networking has become an essential skill for every business person. Taking the time to meet others in your industry and discover ways to help them and how they can help you can be both rewarding and lucrative. Unfortunately, not everyone has learned how to network effectively, and yes, many out there are not playing well in the networking playground.

Could this be about you?  Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Do you forget to keep someone who has given you a reference in the loop?
  2. Are you neglectful in saying thank you when someone gives you a reference?
  3. Are you slow to follow up on introductions?
  4. Are you reluctant to reciprocate and give leads because you’re waiting for your contacts to specifically ask?
  5. Do you have difficulty in sharing introductions?
  6. Do you respond to cyber introductions with a sales-oriented email that is “all about you” (complete with attachments)?

If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, you need to polish your networking skills.

The art of networking requires much more than eating a muffin at a Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting. You need to know how to effectively communicate with others, build strong relationships, and make the most out of online and in-person networking opportunities. No, it’s not easy, and it’s certainly time consuming, too. But, the benefits of successful networking can be instrumental in growing your business.

How do you transform yourself from a networking nightmare into a networking pro? Here are five straightforward ways to help you improve your networking image.

Be Appreciative

You won’t keep a contact for long if you’re not showing your appreciation for their efforts to help you. If someone has given you a lead or valuable information, say “thank you” in a big way. Write a hand-written note. Take them to lunch, or send a donation to the charity of their choice. An email “thank you” is weak and doesn’t really cut it when the person has gone out of their way to be helpful to you.

Be Proactive

Don’t wait for someone to ask you for a specific referral. Be proactive. Mention that you have an interesting person for them to meet. Communicate the synergies that can be shared. Introduce influencers to other influencers. No, they might not be the end person who uses the product or service, but they can introduce the person to possible end-users.

Be Efficient

With online networking sites and emails, it’s so much easier than it used to be to introduce others. Use technology to your advantage and encourage those around you to do the same.

Set Up Small Informal Networking Events

You don’t have to depend on large networking organizations to plan your events. Take the initiative and plan your own networking breakfast or lunch for your contacts. Put together a regular get-together with a group of like-minded people and start expanding the circle to increase the networking opportunities. (Contact me for more info about “Six in the City”.)

Follow Up and Follow Through

Establish a timeframe for which you follow up with new contacts and follow through with helping others. If possible, it should never take longer than 24 hours to get back in touch with someone. This is particularly true for email and phone introductions which can become lost in the shuffle very quickly.

Stay on the Grid

Networking is an ongoing process and unless you have the good fortune to be in the exact right place at the exact right time, you will need to demonstrate staying power with all of your valued networking contacts and referral sources.  That old cliche “out of sight, out of mind” is very true in the networking playground.

One last thought, networkers have good memories and bad reputations tend to be very sticky. Pay attention to your tactics and networking manners. It will serve you well.

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