NetworkingIf  just the thought of working another after-hours gathering, expo or meet-up evokes dread and you resist getting involved with online social networks, it’s probably because you’ve done it all before with the expectation (hope?) of getting new business and ended up disappointed.

Is networking outmoded?  A waste of time?

Our answer:  definitely not!  It all depends on your intention and the role you choose to assume when you hit the bricks (or the social-sphere).    What if you were to become the turn-to person instead of the one expecting a quick return?  Here are a few secrets of successful – and popular! – networkers that you can practice starting now:

 

1.    Pose questions and listen to the answers.

Networking in the ideal sense is the process of forging relationships.  You know how to do this!  Resist the impulse to lead with your own story.  Instead, ask the people you meet to share theirs.  Reflect back what you hear to demonstrate your interest and understanding – before diving in with the “me-too”  or helpful information.

2.   Bring your gifts

Said another way, apply the Golden Rule to your business interactions.  Approach meeting opportunities with the intention of offering freely what you’d like to receive.  We all have the ability to make an introduction to a potential client or customer, suggest a useful resource or share an experience that provides perspective and encouragement.  Listen to the story and offer your gift.   No need for a quid pro quo.

3.   Ask for what you want

Don’t confuse this with the classic sales approach where you barrage a stranger with all the features and benefits of your products and services.  Getting what you want means being more thoughtful and targeted in “the ask.”   What one golden nugget would make the meeting / outreach successful for you?  One of our clients needed references and posted the request on LinkedIn.  Her network of clients responded with waves of sincere (and compelling) testimonials.   She said, “if I’d known it would be this easy, I would have asked sooner.”

 

4.   Follow-up Meaningfully

It’s shocking how many entrepreneurs invest the time to network and “collect” contact info, only to do absolutely nothing as follow-up .  What a terrible waste of time and resources!  The one who returns with the most business cards or online form submissions does not win!  Productive networking is not quantitative – it’s qualitative.  So, if you have a good exchange with someone and have offered a gift or asked for what you want – pursue a second date!  Not with the crowd – with the special few with whom you’ve begun a real relationship.  When you treat them like you would a friend, you’re more likely to be viewed the same way – and rewarded as such.

5.    Express Gratitude

Thank you: the two words which cannot be said enough, as long as they are conveyed sincerely.  It matters not if someone shares an experience, a problem, a need or an opportunity with you.  Just the act of conversation is valuable – and not to be taken for granted.  There is trust in it and the seed of relationship.  As humans and social beings – not just business leaders! – we all value recognition and acknowledgement.   We tend to appreciate in silence.  Instead try expressing it directly to a new contact AND to others about that relationship.  As you know for yourself, positive feedback is memorable.

 

Does any of this resonate with you in terms of your own experiences with networking?