Are You Networking Enough?

By Carol A. Gooch, M.S., LPC, LCDC, LMFT

Here's a question I often get: Where should I network to get the most leads? That is the wrong question.

Networking is not about getting. It's about meeting, engaging, establishing rapport, finding common ground and giving. Networking works if you make a strategic plan, target people and places, allocate the time, prepare before you go, and do it consistently.

5 types of networking

1. Attending and participating in events.
2. Being in charge of an event and bringing people together.
3. Being in charge of a group or association.
4. Speaking at a local or national event, and being the star of the show.
5. Volunteering in your community.

How do you choose which events to attend?

1. Go where you love to go.
2. Go where your customers go.
3. Go where your prospects might be.
4. Be ready when you get there and arrive happy.

Here are a few fundamental ground rules to follow that will ensure maximum enjoyment and maximum benefit:

Arrive early. Get there at the start and meet as many people as possible.

Leave late. Maximize your time - especially if the room is full of decision makers.

Don't drink too much alcohol.  At the events that involve alcohol, you will be more professional if you don’t overdo the alcohol.

Have something of value to say.  Try to find out what they do. If they ask what you do, have a brief explanation and a unique business card. Your 30-second commercial needs to start with a question. Talk about positive things.

Make appointments to meet later with key people from your networking events. When you meet with them have them a lead or two and give them that information.

If leaving a voice message or e-mail make it effective. If you want to get called back or e-mailed back, then lead with what’s in it for them not with what you want. “The reason I am calling /e-mailing is to let you know that I can help you increase your bottom line with an idea I have. I would like to meet with you to discuss this.”

5 Tips to Networking

1. Create a top 10 list. Develop a list of 10 individuals that can impact your business or career. Make a positive connection with each of them at least once a month.

2. Create a top 100 list. Make a list of 100 key people who should know about you. Create a plan to connect with each individual each month. If you do this correctly, you can get more value from these top 100 than a data base of 10,000.

3. Step outside your comfort zone. Join organizations with serious agenda, programs and members. Get involved with the organization. Network with a group with wider, deeper and more powerful connections.

4. Become ‘famous’ in your field. By writing pro bono articles for local newspapers or online venues, you become well known in your community and industry. Send informative articles via Internet to your customers.

5. Join formal peer groups. Networks of female peers within your specific business can be formed to bounce off ideas with each other.