The True Value of Networking…Attend With a Goal in Mind
There are specific groups dedicated to networking; you may find networking opportunities via local networking groups, rotary clubs, or at professional conferences you attend. Opportunities and groups come in all shapes and sizes. Some groups are highly structured with performance requirements, exclusive membership, and include monthly fees. While others are free form, come as you please and no charge. With proper planning you will be able to determine which are the right fit for you.
Don’t kid yourself, your time has value, so consider the time you will invest, you should carefully choose the events you frequent and plan in advance.
In our office we say “work or start with the end in mind”, this holds true for networking events too. You will get the most value from your time at an event if you attend with specific goals in mind:
- Attend with the attitude that you will make no more than three (3) strong new connections
- Look to meet professionals with a particular specialty who can be a resource to you
- Seek out business people who you can be a resource to, in the future they might be someone who can refer business to you
- Consider that people in the same profession may be looking to expand or consolidate their practice
- Speaking with business people who have a solution to one or two of your firm/business concerns or “pain points” will be a home run.
- If possible request the attendee list prior to the event and try to familiarize yourself with several of the other attendees by looking at their websites and social media posts
- Collect and make notes on the business cards of those people who you will want to remain in contact with
- Send a LinkedIn connection invite with a short note within 3 days of the event
- Take a picture of yourself with the event banner to use in a social media post
When considering a networking group; does this group offer more long-term value, or short-term value?
Short term value: you see each member of the group only as a prospect. This limits the business potential of the group because you can’t reach beyond the people who are actually present in the room.
Long-term value: build strong trusting relationships that will give you influence beyond the people in your immediate group.
Things to Consider:
Take Time to Discover the Needs of Others:
If you are like most people, you are already pretty clear about what you need. What you may not be so clear on is what your business connections need. Do you know anyone who is a good prospect for them? Can you recommend or offer services that will help them? Find out what your contacts need and act to fulfill those needs.
Stop looking at every person in your networking group as a potential sale. Especially early on, be more concerned about what you can give than what you can get from these meetings.
Give materially by sponsoring group events, donating to fundraising efforts, or simply bringing in some bagels for the meeting. Give of your time and effort by contributing time in a service position or simply be free with great ideas and a welcoming smile.
Especially give liberally by helping others make valuable connections. If you can help one of your fellow group members by making an introduction, do it. If you are generous, the effort will come back to you.
People seek out people they can trust. Cultivating trust takes time and effort, but is totally worth it. When it comes to business, trust is based on three factors:
Value – do you consistently bring value to the relationship?
Dependability – are you the real deal? Can you be depended upon?
Consistency – are you consistent over time? If you are an occasional participant, or just passing through, it is harder to develop trust.
Hold regular one-on-one meetings with a group member. Get to know them, and they will get to know you.
Networking groups provide you with valuable business allies who can open doors and remove obstacles. Cultivate relationships instead of just asking for sales appointments. Because strong relationships build strong businesses, over the long-term, this is the most valuable approach to networking.
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