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NETWORKING is defined as “cultivating contacts to promote business”, but that definition is lacking in two very important words – YOU and YOUR. YOU must be doing the cultivating for YOUR business because YOU are the driving force behind YOUR company and its best representative.
Meeting people and staying in touch with them is essential—one of the best ways to generate sales and find new clients. It is also a great way to connect with suppliers, find potential employees and even secure financing for your business.
Be aware that every day is filled with networking opportunities. You don’t have to wait for a formal “networking event” to make contacts and sell yourself and your business.
Be prepared by creating a brief description of what you/your company does. Write it down and practice saying it out loud. Be friendly when you introduce yourself; make what you do sound interesting; add a quick note of humor related to the circumstance of the introduction (if you can pull it off). Speak clearly, audibly and with enthusiasm.
Always give your business card and ask for one in return. Note on the card what might be important about following up with this person or where you received the card.
Join clubs and professional organizations to meet people with similar interests. Attend seminars and networking events where prospective clients may be found: Chambers of Commerce, political clubs, athletic clubs, volunteer organizations, special interest clubs, even churches and synagogues.
Make a commitment to participate in the organization you join. Do more than just attend meetings; join a committee. This gives you more visibility and helps you meet people on a one on one basis.
At a networking event, set a goal for yourself. Maybe the goal is a specific number of people to meet. Don’t hang out with people you already know. That is not what you are there for. Gracefully excuse yourself if you “get stuck” for too long with one person. Say something like this— “We are both here to meet as many people as possible, so let’s mix and get together again later.” Make sure that you have enough business cards and that they are handy.
Qualify the cards you receive. Determine if, when and how this person can use your business expertise. Does this contact have the money to pay for your services; is this person the decision maker; can this contact introduce you to others?
Give and take is very important in networking. Call your new contact with the name of a book or person he/she might be interested in learning about. Send an article which might be of interest to that person. Call and ask for a small favor; do one in return. Stay in touch with contacts who may not be immediately helpful, especially if you enjoy their company. You just never know when this person may recommend you or your business to someone else.
FOLLOW UP ASAP. Try to follow up with a contact who you think may be valuable within four days by calling to set up a lunch or breakfast, by sending your brochure or information about your company with a note, by sending a note with a suggestion or tip for your new contact.
Read other PR Tips.
- Issue 1 – GIVEAWAYS GET BUSINESS
- Issue 2 – NETWORKING BASICS
- Issue 3 – DIRECT MAIL— THE DO’S & DON’TS & WHY
- Issue 4 – THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ADVERTISING AND PR — WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT?