Let's test your knowledge on networking:
1)The best definition of networking is:
a) Schmoozing at meetings and events
b) The solicitation of funds
c) Building and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships
d) Marketing and selling your products and services to everyone in the room so you can meet your sales quota before your boss fires you
2) Why do you network?
a) To develop your business
b) To help other people
c) To share information
d) All of the above
3) What are the most effective ways to network?
a) Regularly attending meetings, events and activities
b) Talking to random people in the streets, stores, busses and bathrooms
c) Offering referrals, resources and recommendations
d) It doesn't matter as long as you help others first and remember that it ain't about you
4) True or False: Networking is not a skill, but rather a hereditary trait passed down from your father not unlike height or Male Pattern Baldness.
5) True or False: Networking isn't always strategic, but frequently occurs by an accident and/or stroke of luck which falls in your lap like a gift from God.
Networking is the development and maintenance of mutually beneficial relationships. It's not schmoozing, it's not handing out business cards, it's not selling, it's not marketing, and it's not small talk. Some of those activities might be part of networking, but be careful not to confuse form with function. Networking is a process that takes the right attitude, patience and organization.
Networking is one of, if not THE leading way to increase your business. In fact, I get almost 100% of my business from some form of networking. And with proper preparation and implementation, a networking plan can be your catalyst for dramatically changing the way you deal with, obtain and maintain your business relationships.
Networking is also sharing information. Your most valuable resource is other people. And the supply never ends! I once read a quotation from my favorite author, a philosopher by the name of Anonymous, who said, "Even though it's not what you know but who you know - remember that who you know teaches you what you know."
Networking is a skill. It is not an inherent trait. It takes time to develop. Now, clearly some people are more extroverted, friendly and outgoing than others. And that certainly helps. But anyone can develop their networking skills with a little research and plenty of practice, and in so doing become a monument of approachability.
Networking is helping others. Some people just don't get it. They honestly believe it's all about them. False. Networking is, as aptly stated by Zig Ziglar "getting what you want by helping other people get what they want first."
Here's some great tips to help you put these ideas into practice:
Get Organized When are the general membership meetings of my organizations?
Who can I meet for lunch/coffee to brainstorm and share ideas?
What special events are coming up that I want to attend?
Are there any new groups with whom I could get involved?
Who haven't I talked to in a while?
What resources, tips, articles, ideas or contacts could I share with the people in my network?
What people could I introduce that would be able to help each other?
At the beginning of every month, sit down and organize your networking plan. Ask yourself the following questions:
Before and After
Whatever event, meeting, conference or seminar you attend - arrive early and stay late. Sometimes the most valuable connections are made when nobody else is around. What's more, there's less pressure when you're networking on your time, not the organization's time.
Don't Limit Yourself
Networking isn't limited to a room. The birth of my forthcoming second book was a result of a conversation I had with my good friend Todd - in a swimming pool! We were taking a break from our NSA Convention when I ran a few title ideas by him. He agreed that The Power of Approachability was the best choice, so I decided right then and there. And as any writer will tell you: once you get the title, everything else is cream cheese.
Become a resource
Carry with you a list of books, websites, ideas, suggestions and articles that may benefit other people you're meeting with. Not only does it provide value for them, but it gives you an easy conversation starter. Remember, helping others first DOES help you!
Keep a pen and paper
If I don't write that idea down now, I'll never remember it!
If you've ever said this sentence before, you know how valuable a simple notepad can be. I recommend carrying a small pen and paper with you, wherever you go. Keep it right next to your business card holder. My little notepad is the single greatest accessory I've ever purchased in my life. It has saved my butt - and other people's butts - numerous times. You can buy these at any luggage store at your local mall for under $20. Most of them have refills for the paper and a nice pen that fits inside the pad. And I can't begin to tell you how many ideas, names, phone numbers or recommended book titles I've written down the exact moment someone told me.
No front porch behavior is more effective than asking open ended questions. So don't walk into a networking event without a few great stock questions that are relevant to the event, i.e., What's the biggest challenge of your job? What's been the most effective way to promote your business? For dozens of other great examples, see Appendix C.
Stick with it
A common misconception about networking is that it boosts your business right away. False. Networking takes time to reciprocate back to you. And because the process of developing mutually beneficial relationships involves helping others first, you may not see the fruits of your labor for weeks, months, even years!
Here's an example. In March of 2004, one of my audience members approached me for a copy of HELLO, my name is Scott. As I was signing it, we talked about possibly working together in the future. We exchanged cards and stayed in touch over the next few weeks. Shortly thereafter, I received an email from a guy named Paul, one of the audience member's friends. He was interested in featuring my website in his newsletter. Little did I know his ezine had well over 10,000 subscribers! And two of those subscribers just so happened to be two meeting planners who booked me for two programs six months later.
Get the Story Straight
Have you ever heard the question, "So...what's your story?" This is an obvious figure of speech. People don't actually expect you tell them a story. But what if you did? What if you called their bluff? People don't remember things, facts or ideas - they remember stories. So when it comes to business, you've got to have a story. Most business people have some signature tale of how they became involved in their line of work; or something unusual that happened in their job. So be known for your story. Write it out. Tell it often. Soon, people you don't even know will approach you and ask for "The Story." It's a perfect front porch.
Create a Custom Nametag
If you're a small business owner or entrepreneur and you don't have your own custom nametag, you are missing out. Imagine you attend your Chamber of Commerce meeting and you get stuck wearing the obligatory, computerized, faded-font, barely-sticks-onto-my-lapel Avery piece of crap. You will not stand out. You will not promote your business. And other members will not know who you are or how you can give them value. Try this: at your next meeting, sit by someone in real estate agent - those people know how to wear nametags!
Spice It Up
Cal Thompson, owner of TripleXpresso's in St. Louis, encourages Nametag Networking at his meetings. He calls it "Xpress Request." This is a way to identify people's networking needs in a quick, efficient manner. Here's how it works. In addition to their standard badges, people also wear pre-registered nametags with a list of three things they need, i.e., Web Design, Direct Mail, New Assistant, etc. This immediately lets people know how they can help others!
What's your networking know-how?
TEST RESULTS: C, D, D, F, T
? 2005 All Rights Reserved.
Scott Ginsberg is a professional speaker, "The World's Foremost Expert on Nametags" and the author of HELLO my name is Scott and The Power of Approachability. He helps people MAXIMIZE their approachability and become UNFORGETTABLE communicators - one conversation at a time. For more information contact Front Porch Productions at http://www.hellomynameisscott.com.