I remember when I first started my business 23 years ago. I did the setup steps – started a business based on what I do best, established a name, registered the business, set up a bank account, logo, biz card, and brochure. I had all the marketing materials – but why wasn’t anyone knocking on my door? Don’t they know I have a service to offer to help them? How come my phone isn’t ringing? Guess I needed to do more to show the world I exist!
Networking? That was a concept I never heard of. Hmmm, what’s this Networking Calendar of Events in the business section of my newspaper? Looks interesting – is it a party?
So I went to my first networking event with my beautiful business cards. Walked into a room filled with business women who obviously knew each other and they greeted me warmly. What – a 30 second intro – what’s that? Shaking in my boots, I was able to come up with a quick intro how I help people get organized which actually brought some attention to a woman who said “I need you”. Hey this networking sounds easy peasy! Continued to go to every group around and saw they were different but had same concept – to make yourself known to get business.
Slowly I was able to secure some business within different groups and became known as “Dr. DeClutter”. However, I sensed something else needed to be done. I needed to learn to listen and pay attention to other people selling themselves. I went to a top notch group who had a form with questions laid out about what to ask the other person you’re speaking with to show your interest during one-on-one calls. But I’m meeting so many people and can’t keep track of everyone so what can I use to help me pay attention and remember their specific business and needs?
I created my own networking “homework” form.
It had various pieces of info such as the date, time, name, and contact info for the private meetings I set up. I realized this was about relationship building which is needed for successful networking. I added key questions to ask the other person – like what’s their business, who are their targets, their background, outside interests, ideas we discussed to help each other, leads given/received, action items I said I would do for my fellow networker (follow through is KEY). I then noticed my brain was now engaged from getting to know my fellow networkers as I was able to come up with contacts from other groups in my circles to connect people together so they could possibly do business together.
Networking is not one sided. It’s a mutual respect for each other and for sharing a common goal – to get business. That meant stepping outside my own picture frame and expanding my interest in learning to build relationships by simply listening and asking questions of the other person. It shows compassion, a common ground, a real interest in what I could do for them and not just what they could do for me. It was a lesson in selflessness.
Last week I attended a networking event where I ran into people I’ve known for over 20 yrs. Their welcoming hello’s were proof that doing networking professionally and with consideration pays off.
If you’re unsure about how to go about networking, then try any of these:
- Check the business section of your local Sunday newspaper.
- Meetup.com is great for networking both professionally and personally.
- Eventbrite has local networking events, business mixers, and more.
I’ve helped clients nationally find groups in their location that they didn’t know existed, It opened up a whole new world of opportunity. Successful networking involves being professional, interested, resourceful, and organized!
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