Life in the USA
This material courtesy of Philadelphia-based consultant Erin Flynn.
Networking can be an intimidating task. Many businesspeople don’t know how to go about this process, but there are ways to make it more enjoyable and rewarding. In these tough economic times, it is more important than ever to foster new business alliances. How do you network for new opportunities?
Plan Your Networking Approach. “Although we know that the goal of networking is todiscover new business opportunities, it’s more than a "paint by the numbers" process,” according to Andrea Nierenberg, a keynote speaker for conferences and corporate meetings and President of The Nierenberg Group. “It takes time, patience, and creativity to cultivate people into our lives.”
When Nierenberg first started her consulting business, networking was starting to get a bad reputation. “People saw trade shows and business seminars as ‘targets’ to pass out and collect as many business cards as possible,” she confides. “Ultimately, people networked when they needed something from someone.”
To make positive networking become a part of your everyday life, start with a strategy and begin the process. “Begin to imagine that many people you meet can lead you to potential business,” Nierenberg says. “Think about how that strategy will include tactics to allow people to feel comfortable to want to help you achieve more.”
First, know your contact. Let’s say you call someone up and say, "Hi, Bob. I need your help with some referrals. Any suggestions?" On the surface, it seems harmless. However, people will sense when you’re using them as a means to and end. Have a genuine dialog first; then, at the right time, ask them if they would help you "brainstorm" for new ideas to develop new business.
Second, see the potential. Everyone we meet is a client, prospect, friend, or knows someone who can help us meet one. “Often, the top people rely on people they manage for advice,” Nierenberg advises. “While the president of a company signs the biggest checks, you might want to find ways to let that person’s staff see how you can provide the products or service to help everyone at the company.”
Third, follow up in unique ways. No, you don’t have to send singing telegrams. When you network with new people, work to remember something that is important to them. Then, these topics can become a springboard for future communications.
For example, if someone likes fishing, you could send a follow-up note that has a fish on it. It doesn’t take much, according to Nierenberg. However, it does take some thought. It’s this attention to detail that will strengthen your networking relationships
The Three P’s of Networking
Deb Haggerty, President of Positive Connections, views the successful networker as someone who enters a room and sees people who need to be connected with others. Once this attitude is adopted, there are three steps to make networking pay off -- Process, Place, and Practice.
1. Process. Process refers to how and why you are going to go about networking. Haggerty recommends asking yourself the following questions:
2. Place. Open your mind to the endless possibilities. Anywhere there is another human being, there is the possibility of networking. Especially good locations are:
Her guidelines are as follows:
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