You know I’ve been doing this for over twenty years. Well, I still refresh my skills periodically and make sure that I’m at the top of my game. Why? No matter how long you’ve been networking, you can benefit from a quick review of areas where you can improve your skills. In fact, long-time networking types are the people who can get the most from this type of review. It’s easy to become complacent about your approach over time, causing you to settle for being “good enough” at networking instead of maximizing this powerful business tool.
Let’s make sure you are not just good enough, but great!
To get started, consider how your current networking strategies stack up against these gold standards:
1) Communicating effectively. Communication is a two-way street. You may have put time and energy into polishing how you communicate about yourself and your business, but how sharp are your listening skills? How well can you draw someone into a conversation to learn more about what they do?
2) Active vs. passive networking. Technically speaking, if you dutifully show up for meetings and regularly hand out your business card, you’re networking. You’re probably also not getting many leads or referrals. Successful networking is about much more than showing up for meetings; it’s about being as active and dynamic as you can. Speak up in meetings. Make a point of saying hello to other guests. Searching for networking members who can have a mutually beneficial relationship with you is far more effective than hoping someone responds to your needs. Consider hosting a seminar or talk to show members what you do and what you can offer.
3) Housecleaning. You should review your contact list on a regular basis and prioritize it. Are you spending too much time with people who don’t contribute in some way to your business? Are you putting too little time towards those who should be front and centre? Remember that networking isn’t just about getting business from your direct contacts; it’s the people on their contact lists that you’re trying to access. Adjust your list accordingly.
4) Customizing your network. You’re bound to encounter a wide range of people, all the way from those who have little or no overlap with what you do or need to those who are closely aligned. Choose wisely and invest most of your time building relationships where there will be mutual benefit. However, be care to not be rude or dismissive if you want to spend less time with someone; not only is it unprofessional, but you never know how that person could affect your business indirectly or directly.
Don’t forget that people can provide benefits other than referrals, such as expertise in an area, or connections with needed resources. Keep an eye out for opportunities to partner with people who are natural givers, and return the favor by finding ways to help them get ahead. It’s a win-win for both of you to make sure that you’re a great networking member!
Let me know if you have any questions about how I can help you strengthen your skills.