Here is our take on networking along with framework to focus your activities and get better results. Let us know what you think! We'd love to hear from you.
Networking takes time. Time is money. Those using networking to build new business can't afford to misuse time. It costs in dollars and lost opportunities when done haphazardly. Hence, I promote planning.
Your networking is truly part of your marketing mix. With that in mind, network strategically to gain exposure, build your credibility, and do your own market research in addition to lead generation.
Great networking conversations are built around discovery. Not selling! If you get around alot the conversations do become second nature. If you don't, it pays to plan.
After doing your homework (know who you are, what you do, how you can serve others) you can show up, ask good questions, and learn far more about another person in a very natural conversation than you would by talking about yourself.
Here are a couple of things I teach and practice to increase my payoff and leverage time when networking.
I choose events by the following criteria:
- Target market rich (potential business development)
- Target strategic partner rich (potential opportunties, cross marketing, and resources)
- Fun (we are whole people, not just our work)
- Contribution (attending events to give back to the community, people group, or individuals makes me feel good)
- Professional Development (I always want to be increasing my knowlege base)
Here is another quick list. Develop key questions to discern the following:
- Is this a prospect? (not so I can sell them on the spot but I can know how best to follow up)
- Is this a potential partner? (I am always looking for people who do exceptional work)
- Is this a connection to opportunity, resources, or information? (We can learn alot from from other people's experiences)
- Is this a great person to know. (Sometimes the person you are speaking with is just "cool". I like to know cool people.)
I have to tell you, when I hear the phrase "elevator speech" I cringe. I think it is overated in most business networking environments. You can have a killer elevator speech and bomb on the follow up conversation. Good questions overcome many a botched opening introduction. I know. It still happens to me.
Do you have a networking philosophy? If so, please share!