With most businesses, failing to plan is planning to fail. It’s the same simple paradigm for networking like a pro instead of like an amateur. And it all starts with the reason(s) why you are networking. Whether you want to learn things to help you do your job better/faster/cheaper/smarter, look for a different job or grow your business, network with a Strategic Plan. Here’s how:
You just returned from a networking event, having delivered a concise, engaging and listener-centric Elevator Speech to Tony. You continued that brief conversation, began a potentially new business relationship and learned more about what Tony does. You exchanged cards, shook hands and moved on to meet someone else. Now … what do you do?
Here are a few follow up and relationship maintenance Best Practices learned from those people on the Varsity Networking Team. They can reinforce the positive first impression you made on Tony and help you establish a mutually beneficial networking relationship with him.
How often does this happen to you? The day after you attend a business networking event, you get a few generic email requests to Link In with people you chatted with for two minutes. They say ‘I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn’. Or, even worse, ‘Because you’re a friend … or … someone I trust … ‘.
I get several of these unsolicited requests a week from 2nd level connections I don’t know, people I met very briefly or who were in the audience for one of my presentations.
Regular readers know that I frequently engage in lively discussions with several LinkedIn groups. A recent posting asked about ideas for following up on business cards gathered at networking events. Some excerpts from my comments:
- I only get cards from people I want to get to know better – people I think I can help or who might be able to help me.
- Don’t give your card to anyone! Really! Wait for people to ask for one. If they don’t and you really want them to have one, ask if you can give them your card. A simple little difference, but it sends out a very clear – and positive – message.
- I send an email to each person I want to get to know better, asking for a good time to follow up on our brief conversation started at the event, but I don’t send any marketing information unless that person asked for something.
- Here’s a different twist on the typical tactic after a networking event of asking for an in-person follow up chat. Since I’ve already met the person and established a minimal ‘hi touch’ connection, I respect their time and mine by suggesting we begin a more detailed and convenient email or phone dialogue. As that conversation evolves, the need for and value in another in-person meeting becomes more obvious.
When you’re networking, begin making the very best first impression you can on the strangers you meet with a winning smile and good eye contact. Then, continue that positive image with a comfortable handshake.
- As you introduce yourself, shake hands briefly and energetically. Firm but painless is the key. An energetic handshake suggests an energetic person. A wimpy handshake suggests … well, you get the picture.
‘Where are some good places to network?’ As the COSE MindSpring ‘Networking Strategies’ Expert, I get that question a lot. It’s very difficult to answer, especially briefly. The long answer involves a lot of work answering several other questions first.
Networking is simply a process for ‘sharing information, ideas and resources’, as John Naisbitt defined it in ‘Megatrends’ back in 1982. Networking is all about information you need to find or can share with others. So, to those other questions:
Has this ever happened to you? You’re networking at a COSE or other professional association event and you’ve just delivered a concise, engaging and listener-centric Elevator Speech to Maria. Good for you! Now, what do you do?
You have several options to continue the conversation, enhance a potentially beneficial new business relationship and learn more about Maria. Here are a few Best Practices I’ve learned from some colleagues or clients who are on the Varsity Networking Team:
Learn how to network with more confidence – with focus, finesse and flexibility. Benefit from highly engaging discussions of Best Practice strategies and techniques for networking on purpose and for a purpose.