‘Networking’ is not a four-letter word

'Networking' is not a four-letter word

Just the mention of the word is enough to make some people shudder. Why is that?  Well, it’s because the process of networking can feel very similar to cold calling, which terrifies almost everyone; you’re initiating contact with strangers, telling them about what you do, asking questions, trying to find a fit, and attempting to create a way to continue your communication with this person or entity in order to grow your client base….except that it’s generally done in person, which can feel very scary.  Ideally, you’d like to get a few clients with accounts that pay well, and they would remain loyal and prosperous resources forever.  But how often does that actually happen? Try ‘never’.  So networking is a vital and effective way to expand your circle of acquaintances, get your name and product out to new prospects, and grow that client base.  Believe it or not, with a bit of practice, it can start to feel comfortable, familiar, and not at all scary.  Try these tips to get to that place;

  • Always listen more than you talk- When you meet new contacts, ask lots and lots of good questions. Find out who they are, what they do, and what their needs and challenges are.  If what you hear qualifies them to warrant your efforts and attention, then pursue the communication further.
  • Follow up- When you make a solid contact, that fresh new contact needs lots of nurturing and attention to make it grow.  Write a quick handwritten note to every new contact just to let them know you enjoyed meeting them and look forward to speaking with them again soon.  All you need is a supply of high-quality note cards and envelopes (you can never go wrong with Crane brand) 4x6 does the trick, and just a few simple but sincere sentences.  Please always use black ink. Not blue, not teal, not red.  Trust me on this.
  • Be selective- When attending a function for the specific purpose of networking, make it your goal to meet 3 or 4 highly-placed people and get as much information from them as you can.  Do not dilute your results by chatting with anyone who crosses your path. The object of this game is not to see how many business cards you can collect, but to see if you can widen your circle of quality resources, prospects and alliances.
  • Practice, practice, practice- Turn everything you do into a game of networking- try to make one new contact every day whether it be by phone, in person, or by referral.