Business Networking

Networking is a term that became overused and misunderstood in the late 80s and early 90s, but what is “real” networking? “Real” networking is what I like to call getting yourself “out there.” It is very easy to attend a lot of events and just eat finger food and have a glass of wine, but true networking is much more than that. “Real” networking requires planning and a professional approach to making contacts and then following up with those contacts.

You need to know what type of contacts you are looking to make. There are direct contacts and indirect contacts. A direct contact for me would be a marketing manager or CEO of an organization, but a great indirect contact could be anyone in an organization who has a direct connection to one of my direct contacts. That is a great place to start and a good person to be networked to. You also need to think longer term when networking. If you need sales tomorrow, networking is not the answer. If you are trying to develop a sales career, networking is essential.

Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty
This is the title of a book by author Harvey Mackay. It was published in 1997 by Currency Doubleday. I never actually read this book. I lost the autographed copy that he gave me when I met him at the Premium Incentive Show in New York City back in 1997. I did however read his book titled Swim with the Sharks: Without Being Eaten Alive. It was published in 1988 by Ballantine Books. This book I can highly recommend. It is a must read for anybody in business. Great book Harvey, thanks. Although I did not read Dig Your Well, his very famous book, the title alone has impacted my understanding of networking. I hope to get a chance to read it soon, but for now, I am already over-networked.

Tips For Networking
This is pretty simple really. There are some basic rules that I should not need to list, but I will anyway for the few of you who never met Captain Obvious.
1.) Dress nice
2.) Be polite
3.) Don’t talk to people while you are eating
4.) Don’t drink too much (don’t drink at all)
5.) Engage other people and listen to them
6.) Never interrupt someone (Unless you are rescuing them from someone who does not follow the first four tips.)
7.) Bring business cards!!!
8.) Ask for business cards
9.) Offer to help others achieve their networking goals
10.) Buy Harvey’s book.

Don’t forget to follow up
Remember, you are not networking because you collect business cards for a living. You are out looking for business leads and contacts. You must follow up on the leads you make while networking. I recommend following up with a letter or an email the very next day. If you can, reference you conversation to help them remember you. Also ask for the next step in the process. Do you want a meeting, to send a proposal, or a referral? If you don’t ask, you probably will not get it. Your follow up correspondence should ask for the next step. You should allow at least a week to go by before you follow up again.

Hopefully your correspondence will be replied to. One reason I prefer email over a letter is that it makes it easier for your new contact to reply. If you do not receive a reply, you should follow up again, but this time with a phone call. I recommend not mentioning the letter or email if your new contact doesn’t. It really doesn’t matter if they received it or not. Just follow up as if it is your first attempt. And don’t forget to ask for the next step.

This lack of follow up is also the main reason that many tradeshows are often unsuccessful. All the new leads in the world can't help you sell more if you don't follow up.

Your networking is is only as good as your sales pitch
While you are networking and afterward when you are following up, you will need to have a good understanding of a successful sales pitch to get results. Go here next to learn more.

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