The key is to create and stick to a networking strategy.  Proactively seek new contacts.  Develop your plan of action and get started without delay.  Identify who you want to meet, where you are likely to meet them, and how you will follow up.  Invest quality time thinking about the people who can best offer you the right information, contacts, and opportunities.  Build relationships with these people by understanding what you have to offer them. 

Where are the best places to make face-to-face contact with them? 

Answering this question will help you decide which organizations you should belong to and which events you should attend.  Important point: The organizations that are the best fit will change over time as your business grows and your career develops. 

Have realistic expectations.  You are (probably) not going to land a big account or forge a strong link from a five-minute encounter.  Networking takes patience!  Networking takes persistence!  Come to terms with the fact that it is probably going to take more than one meeting for folks to come to the conclusion that you are amazingly with-it. 

In fact, it has been proven that it takes most people six to eight positive impressions to remember and begin to trust a new person.   

Keep firmly in your mind that networking may not provide immediate benefits.  It may take years to see the results of your networking efforts, or you could open your e-mail in the morning and have a cool opportunity from someone you connected with the day before.

Shy?  Nervous?  That’s understandable. 

Start with people you know and trust.  Share your desire to be introduced to quality individuals who would be good for you to know. Get connected to the people your contacts know.

Vary your activities.

Grow your list of contacts each week.  Start now and do not stop.  If you’re planning to hit several networking events in a single day, make sure you take time out to recharge.  Plan your schedule so that you have periods of solitude.  Guard against scheduling a full day of networking activities if you plan to network at an evening event.  You’re after quality, not quantity.

As you and your network grow, you will need to make some changes.  Let go of organizations and associations you can no longer maintain properly, or that are no longer relevant. Without forgetting where you came from, allow your network to evolve with you.

Have a goal for each event.  

Decide what you hope to gain before you go.  Write it down.  Then get there and work toward it.  Commit to staying until you have met and connected with your predetermined number or selection of people.  Think about it.  Set a target and push yourself.  This will keep you from walking aimlessly around the room. 

Keep a log.

For a month, keep a log of everyone you meet. 

Then classify and analyze them. 

Which contacts are most valuable?  Where did you meet them? 

Who are the takers and who are the givers?

Any time-wasters?   Hey, your time is valuable too.

 

Contributed by:  Dean Lindsay, Award Winning Speaker and Author of The Progress Challenge & Co-Author of Stepping Stones to Success   

Dean Lindsay, Sales and Leadership Speaker

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