When it comes to business, it’s all about who you know!
The success of your business is often dependent upon having the right connections. These connections can help you find:
- New customers
- New employees
- Contacts to help you find new customers or employees
- Useful tips on the products or services you might need
- Other professionals with whom you can collaborate
- A mentor
- Investors or good suggestions for obtaining financing.
In short, networking can affect everything you do in your business. So, how do you make the most of your networking efforts? Here are five essential tips for networking your way to success.
Networking Tip #1: Know Your Objectives and Tell Others
As you scan the bulleted list above, which items describe your most immediate needs? Focus on those first. Tell all your acquaintances about your objectives. When you meet new people, try an introduction similar to one of these:
- Hello, my name is ______. I’m a marketing consultant, and I’m here to help people who are interested in improving their marketing.
- Hello, my name is ______. I’m an accountant, and I’m here to learn which companies in the community are growing.
- Hello, my name is ______. I’m an architect, and I’m here to meet people who like unique homes and office buildings.
Notice that these introductions do not pressure anyone to buy your product or service. You just want to let people know what you do and what you’re looking for. Don’t wait for the other person to ask what you do. Take the initiative to share this information so that others will know how they can help you.
Networking Tip #2: Care About Others, Too
In addition to letting people know your objectives so they can help you, it’s critically important that you want to help others as well. Not only is helping others the right thing to do, it also pays off. Most people appreciate others’ helpfulness and will naturally want to reciprocate. As you help others, you’re building a spirit of goodwill.
And who knows? You may also be gaining a new friend. As you meet more and more people, you may find someone who shares your interest in a sport or hobby, or you may form a friendship simply due to compatible personalities. So, be open and let people get to know you, and most of all, be interested in them.
Networking Tip #3: Update Your Business Card
Business cards are necessary for networking. Many people feel they’ve had a successful networking experience if they’ve exchanged a lot of business cards, but that alone does not guarantee success! Your most successful exchange occurs when the two of you feel it’s worthwhile to stay in contact.
When these people look at your card later, will they remember why they should call you? If your card doesn’t make it clear what you do, fix that! Your card can show your:
- Slogan or mission statement
- List of products, services or skills
- List of the companies represented, or their logos
- Licenses or certifications.
This additional information makes it very clear what you offer and why people should call you. And when you’re learning about your new acquaintances, don’t hesitate to write notes about them on their card to jog your memory later. That leads us to one last point: make sure your card has at least one side that can accept pen marks, with plenty of room to write.
Networking Tip #4: Join Groups
You can network at practically any event or activity, but certain kinds of organizations—those made up of people with similar networking goals—offer the best business results. These organizations include:
- Chambers of commerce
- Industry-specific associations
- Business Networking International chapters.
Once you find a group to join, be sure to volunteer for committees that can use your skills. Working on key committees within an organization gives you an opportunity to develop ongoing relationships. It also gives other members an opportunity to see the quality of your work, which can lead them to include you in projects later.
Networking Tip #5: Turn Contacts Into a Network
After you’ve attended a number of business networking events and collected a stack of business cards, you may ask yourself, “What do I do with these contacts?” One thing you should do is help your new contacts get to know each other, because remember, you’re looking out for their welfare as well as your own. You can:
- Introduce two contacts to each other when you see both of them at an event
- Send an introductory email to both people describing a bit about each person and why you think they would be interested in knowing each other
- Schedule a conference telephone call for all three of you so you can introduce them to each other
- Schedule a breakfast, lunch or dinner where the three of you can meet.
These individuals will appreciate your effort to help them. The more you help others, the tighter your network becomes, and the more everyone benefits.
But wait, there’s more! I can’t begin to cover everything you need to know in this article, but that’s why organizations like BNI exist—to educate and assist you with your networking. I hope you’ll make 2013 a great year for networking! iBi