You don't have to keep tabs on everyone you've met since grade school to be successful at networking. Some people are social hubs and find networking easy and natural. Others need to make an effort to stay connected with friends and colleagues as well as forge new relationships. Whichever type of person you are, making the most of networking opportunities is critical to business success.
1. Figure out how to help others without immediately asking them to help you. This is the golden key to networking nirvana.
2. Find ways to put people together who you think would enjoy or at least benefit each other. They're likely to return the favor.
3. Inventory your existing network. How many people on your list are mere acquaintances? How many would immediately take your phone call? Concentrate on moving pertinent people from the first group to the second.
4. Arrange third-party introductions whenever possible when you target someone new to meet. This doesn't have to be an in-person introduction, which could be an imposition. Often just a brief e-mail message--explaining who you are and what common ground you might share--will plant the seed.
5. Do your homework before approaching someone new, not just about his or her interests but also about how he or she can be a good contact. When someone asks, "How can I help you?" that's not the time to start waffling. Answer with specifics.
6. Join professional organizations directly related to your career goals. Attending meetings, serving on committees and speaking at conferences are all ways to expand your sphere of contacts.
7. Write memory-jogging hints on the backs of the business cards you collect: where you met the person, mutual colleagues, product names. Follow up with promising contacts as soon as possible, or you risk their forgetting ever meeting you or your forgetting why they seemed so promising.
8. Sift through accumulated business cards and enter the information into a contact-management system. The data entry is timeconsuming but infinitely valuable for later search and retrieval.
9. Practice listening well. Pay close attention to what people say, and you'll have a better chance of remembering conversation details as well as being able to refer to them later.
10. Identify yourself clearly when making follow-up calls. Don't expect people to remember you merely from your name. To avoid putting them on the spot, immediately supply an explanation of when or how you met and why you're calling. Keep in mind that people hate being embarrassed--so helping them get past an awkward moment is key to a successful conversation.
11. Revive the art of letter writing. A handwritten note always makes a more memorable impression than an e-mail message.
Carry a slim, two-section business-card case wherever you go. Keep your own cards in one section and the ones you receive in the other.
Arrive early at functions. The best networking time is prior to the meeting, the meal or the speeches.
Reconnect periodically with people who have been good contacts in the past. Checking in with people lays a good foundation for future networking. Use a system of alerts on your computer or PDA to remember birthdays, or get a continuous birthday calendar that has months and days, but is not specific to a year.
Your mission of building your business or organization through leads and referrals is in large part due to your attitude. This is referred to as your Networking Mindset. There are known to be 10 essential attitudes that one must develop, sharpen and then use, to be a high performing networking professional that continually real in an unlimited supply of high-quality new business sales leads and referrals.
Rate yourself on a scale of 1-10 on each essential attitude. (1 meaning that you don't agree with the statement, while 10 meaning that your name should be Zig Ziglar.) Be honest with yourself. This is time for you to grow and understand of where you are, as well as where you want to be.
#1 - My prospects prefer to meet me through referrals over any other method. In order to have a constant flow of top-quality referrals from coming in, it is essential to have a referral and prospecting system in place.
#2 - Building my company or organization through networking and referrals is the most cost effective way to build my business. What does it cost to do a direct mail campaign? Hotel seminar? Lots! What does it cost to build your business from referrals? Virtually nothing - just a little courage and a game plan. Referrals is no doubt one of the most cost-effective methods to utilize.
#3 - Rather than transactions, I look to the lifetime value of the client. The longer the relationship lasts, the more the trust can build (if you provide quality on-going service), and the more high-quality referrals you will receive.
#4 - I move beyond rapport and form relationships of trust. Good rapport may be enough to get their business, but it won't be enough to get referrals. Since giving referrals can feel risky for some, the most important ingredient is trust.
#5 - I look for ways to leverage my Company. Virtually every business relationships you enter into has the potential to be leveraged into something more than what it was when your first began. Have an attitude of leverage with all your relationships. Make as many as you can into relationships that go way beyond the buyer/seller relationship.
#6 - I have a well developed attitude of service. I look to provide service and value at every opportunity. Look for ways to serve your prospects as soon as you can, even if it as nothing to do with what you are selling. Look for ways to bring real value to your clients each time you make contact with them.
#7 - I am continuously establishing and enhancing my process that brings in a constant flow of new business. Do you have an established process or system for acquiring new clients? Or do you engage in that behavior when you think about it, or when you finally set aside a little time for it? Not only must you have a clear system or strategy for acquiring new clients, you must also constantly re-evaluate your methods to make sure they're most effective.
#8 - I am a problem solver. I look to fix problems, not shy away from them. One of the biggest values you can bring to others is an ability to solve problems, and your willingness not to run from them. Most successful people in this world are problem solvers.
#9 - It is my habit to give referrals whenever I can. If you expect others to give referrals to you, look for opportunities to give referrals. Business the Golden Rule of Referral Giving - give referrals unto others, as you would have them given unto you.
#10 - It is my habit to ask for referrals whenever I can. Are you constantly looking for opportunities to ask for referrals? When a client expresses extreme satisfaction with your service, your brain must remind you, "Ask for a referral now!"
A nice smile is a universal sign of sincerity and happiness. A smile lets other people know that you're friendly and approachable. If you think you're smiling enough - that means that you more than likely need to smile more.
2. Give good eye contact
Looking someone right in the eyes is essential. It's a great way to connect with someone new in the shortest time possible. As you know, it's uncomfortable when talking to someone who looks over our shoulder or around you. It certainly doesn't promote credibility.
3. Listen closely
One of the best compliments you can give people is by letting them know that you're listening to everything they are saying. Let me know that you appreciate their insight and stories. It's also a great way to learn more about your new friend.
4. Be aware of your body language
First impressions are lasting ones. Monitor your posture and physical movement before meeting someone for the first time. In most cases, you need to loosen up because meeting new people can be a tense experience. Find ways to relax and reduce stress before networking.
5. Avoid trying too hard
Be careful of trying too hard or being perceived as too needy. People want to be associated with other people who are making things happen.
6. Give real compliments
When you listen carefully to people, often they will mention an achievement they are proud of. Think for a moment and find a way to acknowledge this.
7. Use business cards wisely
One of the key aspects of business cards is to receive more than you give. Take notes on the back of cards immediately after your conversation, or perhaps after you get back to the office. Write down distinctive aspects of your conversation, as well as what course of action you will need to take at a later time. Doing this will help you remember your prospects, giving you direction when you follow up.