How to network and get results

“Become genuinely interested in other people.” — Dale Carnegie

According to Wikipedia, business networking is “a socioeconomic business activity by which businesspeople and entrepreneurs meet to form business relationships and to recognize, create or act upon business opportunities.” It is all about people and opportunities, meaning it is not about going to a networking event with your colleagues and visiting with the same people you work with every day. Rather, it is about solidifying existing connections and making new ones, as well.

The two most important factors are WHO YOU KNOW and WHO WANTS TO KNOW YOU. Let’s start out with whom you know. There are two categories here: people you know and who know you AND people you know of who have not yet met you. In the first category, networking is all about maintaining, building, and nurturing existing relationships. When you run into an acquaintance at a networking event it is a great thing to catch up. In some cases you might even find there is a business opportunity that you were not even aware of. This happened to me recently when I ran into a client who I had not communicated with for at least six months. After visiting for a while it became obvious that the client was dealing with an issue that we could help with. That short visit led to a formal appointment and, ultimately, business for us.

Then there are the people you know of who have not met you yet and possibly, are not even aware of whom you are. They often are decision makers who are right in the center of your client profile. In some cases, you may have tried to connect with these folks via a cold call, email, or even a letter — all to no avail. The good news is that at a networking event, they are there. There is no voicemail screening. You can walk up to them, introduce yourself, and start a conversation. Where that conversation leads is up to you. I was at an event in La Crosse and I knew that a CEO of a local company that I had been trying to reach would be there. In fact, my sole purpose in going to this event was to make an introduction to this individual. I did make the connection and we have since started a business discussion.

So who wants to know you? There are two answers to this question:

  • If you have truly established yourself in the marketplace as having expertise in a particular area people will be interested in connecting with you if they have a common interest.
  • If you have not established that reputation, get out there and let people know that you have expertise they need.

In a new relationship, always offer to help. If you find a common bond, share your unique abilities and knowledge. Always be approachable and be yourself. Never be the backslapping loudmouth. Follow through on all commitments. And (this really works!) get in the habit of sending handwritten, personal thank-yous and follow up notes. I have a sales friend in Janesville who sends out 10–15 of these notes every week. It is not hard to believe that he is one of the most successful people in the country in his business.

In summary, follow Dale Carnegie’s advice above to build more, better, and deeper relationships. And yes, there will be even more on networking next month.

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