NETWORKING THAT WORKS
C.J. Hayden, MCC
business owners and new entrepreneurs often have a difference
of opinion about networking. The old-timers usually say that networking
is one of their most important sources of business, while the
newcomers frequently claim to put a lot of effort into networking
without seeing much return. What's going on here?
define the kind of networking that builds business. It's not just
circulating through a room exchanging business cards. A broader
view of networking is creating a pool of contacts from which you
can draw clients, referrals, resources, ideas, and information.
Your business network can and should contain colleagues, competitors,
a wide range of business people, and personal friends, as well
as clients and prospects.
people at organized events is one of the easiest ways to build
an extensive network. The first secret to effective networking
is choosing the right kind of events to attend. Don't spend all
your time networking within your profession. Be sure that some
of the events you go to are also attended by potential clients,
and by other professionals who may be able to refer business to
are some popular choices for networking events:
of Commerce mixers, workshops, and award ceremonies
clubs such as Rotary and Kiwanis
and professional association meetings where clients or potential
referral partners gather
workshops, conferences, and fundraisers hosted by educational
institutions, community organizations, and affinity groups
cultural, and sporting events that include receptions or other
gatherings organized for the purpose of meeting new people and
way to get the most value from a group is to be a member of it.
You will have more success in your networking if you go back to
the same groups over and over than if you keep going to new groups
all the time. Find two or three that seem to have the right mix
of people, and keep going back.
the second secret to effective networking: if you don't follow
up with the people you meet, you are wasting your time in meeting
them. It is simply untrue that someone will "call when they
have a need" for you. The truth is that if they have met
you only once, they probably don't even remember you, and it's
even less likely that they will remember where they put your card.
up with the people you meet immediately. For those that are potential
clients, call to reintroduce yourself. Describe what you do or
ask to make a presentation. If directly soliciting business is
inappropriate in your profession -- psychotherapy, for example
-- you can still make contact, perhaps with a "nice-to-meet-you"
note. When you meet people who can lead you to prospective clients
or refer business in the future, call them to suggest coffee or
lunch, or offer to stop by the office. In either case, after making
contact, put them in your calendar to follow up with again in
a month or two.
all this sounds like hard work, you're right. Building relationships
takes time and effort. But these relationships are the core of
networking. The people in your network should be people you truly
enjoy interacting with, because if you're doing it right, you'll
be spending a lot of time with them.
that's the final secret of effective networking -- the one that
separates the successful entrepreneur from the new business owner
who may not make it. Networking takes time to pay off. You need
to put in the effort now, and trust that you will see results
later. The business owners who followed that rule when THEY were
new are now the established successes who can tell newcomers that
networking really works.
© 2000, C.J. Hayden
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