This is part two of “Open Doors by Building Relationships“
Your Networking Plan of Action should define your objective(s). Begin with a purpose. Each time you attend an event determine why you want to network, make a list of your objectives and develop a plan of action to achieve those goals and objectives. Ask yourself the following:
1. Is participating in the network to broaden your professional horizons, increase business by a certain percent, get more referrals or sales leads, or help others?
2. What can you offer those you network with in exchange for information, knowledge, experience and contacts?
3. Which organizations should you consider for the best “bang for your buck,” and most importantly, your investment of TIME? One of the best ways to get to know people “up close and personal” is to volunteer to serve on a committee; give your time and talent to a cause. People want to do business with people who have similar interests and values.
4. What benefits do/can you offer to entice people to do business with you? This is your “30 second commercial.”
Build Your Network – Networking is an investment of time and effort in establishing and maintaining contacts. The first two rules are to be interested and prepared. If you follow the suggestions listed below, you will have more new contacts that you may find it a challenge to keep track of all those you meet. Not to worry, the important thing is to make the contacts and watch what happens.
Ask your current “circle of influence” for opportunities to which they can direct you. Determine and develop “key people” who will become your greatest networking champions. Find out who in your network’s network seems to know “everyone,” and get to know them. Make contacts on a regular basis. When you do, be prepared with what you want to say – rehearsal is always good If you must leave a message, make it short, to the point and leave your contact information. Be a good talker and a better listener.
Get to know your network. Find out their birthdays, anniversaries, kids’ names, hobbies. Use your network to gain introductions. When given referrals, find out who the decision maker is, and more importantly, get to know the gate-keepers. Give referrals to those with whom you network. Become a source of reference to build “word-of-mouth” marketing.
If you cannot find a suitable network, consider creating one yourself. It can be as simple as a lunch or dinner gathering or as complicated as starting a new organization. WECAI.org was born out of a need my “circle” and I had to stay connected when we were not together. And we are even creating opportunities to have those all important, relationship building in-person meetings again. For more information visit: www.wecai.org/
Be Visible Without Really Trying. – You don’t have to be the leader of the organization to get noticed (although it certainly doesn’t hurt). There are other, more subtle ways be visible within any social setting or community – both online and offline.
1. Ask questions. Participate in discussions.
2. Write letters to your industry magazines and newsletters.
3. Introduce yourself to people during meetings, conferences and social events.
4. Make people laugh.
5. Create an unusual business card – or signature file.
6. Take up an unusual hobby (but not too weird).
7. Use your wardrobe to help you stand out without being outlandish.
8. Do favors for others and remember tothank those who do favors for you in a timely fashion.
Building relationships begins with networking. Whether you are finding contacts online or in person, every opportunity you have to meet new people is an opportunity to increase your circle and grow your business! Networking is a process. If you are willing to invest your time, the payoffs can be BIG. However, it’s not realistic to expect instant success. It takes time. You can plan your networking opportunities to shorten the time it takes to build those relationships.
Networking can enrich your life, increase your circle of contacts, grow your business, enhance your professional image, and make new friends. It begins with taking a risk, exploring new territory and talking to people. When you do, doors will open for you, many of them when you least expect it, and need it most. Happy Networking!
Heidi Richards Mooney
Copyright © 2008 RedHead Marketing