October 9, 2009
Several years ago I was invited to a “networking group” that meets every week. I went and met about 25 area professionals, and wondered about the value, and if I could contribute. I was taled into trying, and have stayed ever since. I’ve learned a lot!
Networking, I now understand, is what your mother always told you not to do: Talk to strangers. To make it successful, it’s going further: you have to actively listen to what they way so you can know what you have in common. That’s where the real networking relationship beings. It has to grow. It takes work: growing anything…a vegetable garden in your back yard, or a business relationship…they’re very similar. They need constant nurturing.
The group I joined lets you know that it’s net-WORKING, not net -sitting or net-eating. It takes a while, but when you get it, it’s worth it.
So what do you do?
Come early. The easiest way to meet people is when members start arriving one by one.
Spend 80% nof your tiem wiht strangers. They’re the real opportunity. Spend the other 20% of your time with friends who can introoduce you to others, and they’ll do the same for your.
Attend a variety of networking groups. It’s great to find the ones that your customers and target market attends, but any group where you find like-minded professionals work. How many networking events do you attend each month? If you’re like me, not enough
Remember that networking isn’t selling, it isn’t advertising, and it isn’t marketing. It’s getting to know others. So ask for their card to continue the conversation. If you’re interesting enough, they’ll ask for your. (My mentor said that you should always have cards in your pocket. Do you?) Make sure you can write on them: people like to make notes on the back of your card. Keep meeting new people to try to find the ones with common interest, customers, and ideas. Then introduce them to someone.
They’ll remember you for it.
Come armed with one-liners…questions you can ask them. Something that make them think. Something that they’ll be interested in answering. Long ago when I was dating, I thought that I had great lines. (I didn’t). But when it comes to networking, I do. Send me an email and I’ll tell you about some of them. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org
So networking isn’t what your mother told you. It’s what your kindergarten teacher told you:
Treat others like you’d like to be treated.
Share your ideas, thoughts, and your friends.
Don’t hit people.
Milk and cookies are good for you.