Networking is a great first step to marketing the greatest product you have to offer — you. In fact, when you’re networking, you’re not selling a service or item. You’re selling yourself. If you want to build your business and your income, networking can help you do just that.
I am a firm believer that your involvement within any business community is the key to your success in business. On occasion I hear: I haven’t received any business through XYZ business group. The first thing I ask is, “How are you networking?”
Most people still practice the dinosaur approach to networking, business card to business card. For these individuals, successful networking means collecting as many cards as possible. But then what?
No matter how many times I have tried follow-up techniques with the cards I acquired at events, none of it made sense because I wasn’t making authentic connections. The people in the room were just names, titles and logos on paper.
Think about it. You have two cards in your hand for two different business attorneys. With whom do you do business? If you haven’t made an authentic connection with either, how do you decide which to hire?
The problem is, we tend to leave our characters and our natural instinct to want to know the person with whom we are networking at home. When we are too focused on collecting cards, networking won’t make “cents.”
Connections cascade into referrals. While you may or may not acquire a new client during a networking event, chances are you will connect with someone who can refer you to positive prospects. All it requires is your willingness to ask questions, outside of business.
By the way, the more obscure your profession, i.e. consultants, the more you should be actively involved in the networking community by attending, hosting, volunteering to speak and offering coupons or raffle items during events.
Here are five tips that will help you make “cents” out of networking:
1. Ask, listen and learn
Instead of approaching someone with a business card, ask a question. “What do you do when you’re not networking?” This is your chance to authentically connect with someone you know little about.
2. Be genuine
Only ask for someone’s card if you are genuinely interested in him or her and not just in building your business card portfolio or call list.
3. Make the person you’re talking with your priority
Like me, I’m sure you have experienced talking with someone only to observe him or her scouring the room for their next prospect. His or her eyes are on everyone else but yours. Aggravating, isn’t it? Don’t be that person.
4. Stay in touch
Connect with individuals on social media sites after you have made a meaningful connection. In your request to connect, write a simple note like, “Great meeting you tonight at _________. I’d like to connect with you here.” Or, “We have a lot of colleagues in common. I’d like to connect. Are you available for lunch next week?”
5. Be active
Belonging to a business community can be as easy as writing a check. But it only makes “cents” if you are involved and active, using tried and true professional networking practices.
Mary B. Relotto is the Founder of Dames Bond LLC. In 2007, Mary created Dames Bond to help women leverage the resources, connections and marketing needed to thrive and prosper in business. It was the first, all-female, business community purposefully designed to connect businesswomen with consumers and vice versa.