Saturday, January 24, 2009

Networking - Know why you are doing it

With the way the economy is, it is really important for all businesses to make the most of any networking opportunity. So much can be gained by networking, either the more traditional ‘face-to-face’ or what I have heard refered to as the new generation of networking joining online groups (Linkedin, Twitter, and many more). This item is more on the face-to-face networking opportunities.

If we want to increase business opportunities we have plenty of networking opportunities with conferences, associations, trade shows, seminars, technology-based meetings, technology communications methods, and more.

It might seem like networking is a thing of the past, and often networking is the first item that falls off our to-do list. And, why bother networking? It takes a lot of time, you never know what results (if any) it will produce, and it can be hard work for those that are not networkers and relationship builders.

We must all remember there are increasing numbers and types of business providers out there, and with everyone calling themselves a “consultant” or “expert”, buyers of any services are becoming increasingly wary of engaging business relationships with people they don't know.

The only way to get to know people is to get out there and meet them. If you don't make the effort to get out there, you'll just be another so-called “expert” with a small network that nobody really knows.
It’s important that when you have a networking opportunity, that you make the most of it. All too often people turn up, then just stand around, maybe talk to one or two people (often people they already know) then leave.

If you make the most of any event, you can leverage so many opportunities, simply by making the effort to have as many conversations as you can.

As you might imagine, showing up and having conversations isn't where your networking efforts should stop. That only gets you in the door. The networking is not about accumulating business cards, but in doing something with them. And what you do with those cards – how you continue your relationship with people you meet – dictates what those people begin to think of you.

You can think of this as building your brand with your network. Your contacts should know who you are, know what you do, and ultimately prefer to work with you in the appropriate situation.

This is how you can build professional relationships that will bring dividends.

The majority of networking conversations are never followed up. But, those that are tend to be straight sales calls. This approach rarely works. The best way to build relationships with people is to provide some value to them with your interactions. In other words, as you network, your mission is to give, not get.

Most successful conversations, and the relationships that develop, tend to be strongest when you can establish real rapport in your conversations. The old adage, 'people buy people first' is truer than ever. In an increasingly impersonal business world, people are looking as much to find fulfillment and enjoyment as well as make money. If people see you as someone they can work with and like at the same time, you'll be in great shape.

If you can become enthusiastic about networking – and most people can – you will not only have more conversations through effort and determination, you will have more positive and productive interactions.

This creates an opportunity for great success and growth for those who make the effort to build a network filled with rich and rewarding relationships.

Next time you have the opportunity to network, go prepared to interact, have a simple summary (elevator speech) of your business ready, strive to make new introductions; and follow up on all contacts made.

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