How to Make Networking Work for You

Laurel Tielis

Whether you’re on the lookout for more customers for your business, more clients for your practice, or you need a job, networking is the fastest way to get what you want. The more skillful you are at it, the sooner you’ll be able to move from feeling depressed to achieving success.

While there are formal and informal networking groups, and a lot of people profit by attending their meetings (I personally love http://www.meetup.com), you should first take reach out to the people you already know–the ones in your natural network.

Who You Gonna Call?

Who makes up your network? Everyone from friends, family, colleagues, clients, customers, vendors, suppliers, the guy behind the counter at the cleaners, and the people you pass the time of day with at your neighborhood coffee bar. Because they know you, in most cases, these folks will be willing to give you a helping hand.

Then there’s your social network. In many cases, it’s made up of “formers”–former classmates and coworkers, former clients or customers–people who are no longer in your life on a regular basis.  So before you turn to it, call or email the people you know now.

To get help you have to be clear in describing what you need. Until your contacts understand what you’re looking for, they can’t help you find it. And if you want to keep the relationship sweet, offer something in return. After you ask for what you want, say something like, Is there anything I can do to help you?  

Hallelujah! You’ve Got a Lead

When you get a lead, follow it up–pronto. Tell the person you’re contacting who recommended you get in touch, and why he or she thought there would be good synergy between you. Then ask for what you want and again, offer something in return.

If you’re near your new contact, and it’s appropriate, issue an invitation for coffee, lunch,  or an after-hours drink. That will help move the relationship forward.

The Skinny on Social Networking

When you’re ready to turn to social networking, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ and others sites, let you research individuals you’re no longer in touch with, as well as companies where you used to work. Reach out to those people who used to be in your life. After you re-establish the relationship, you can view the friends of your connections, further widening your network. Put out a call on Twitter, as well.

Once you reestablish relations or open up new ones, try getting together in person. Social networking sites speed up communication, but they’re only the first step in the networking “dance”—you get out on the floor, but you really get moving when you meet. To get what you need, in as brief a time as possible, it’s important to have face time with others.

So again, you want to offer coffee, lunch, or after-work invitations. And again, while you’re asking for what you need, you should also be offering to help the person you’re meeting with.

Open Your Options 

Attend lectures, luncheons, and meetings to broaden your circle. Go to trade shows and conventions in your arena or industry to connect with organization higher-ups. (It’s a good idea to get in touch prior to the show to schedule a meeting.)

Show up at events for groups or industries you want to work with or in, where you can be the only person in your business in the room–this is a much easier way to get attention.

Volunteer to work at events that will move your search forward. Volunteers quickly become in the know. Also, when people see you working at an event, they perceive you as an authority, someone with status. Take advantage of that.

When you’re waiting—at the bus stop, the post office, the bank, or in your doctor’s waiting room—talk to people who are there with you. The shared downtime gives you a surefire conversation-starter.

There are multiple benefits from being in the same physical space. The personal touch can make all the difference. And surprisingly enough, everyone knows someone who knows someone who can help.

Take Care of Others

Whether you know someone really well, or you’re just in the formative stages of a relationship, the fastest way to get what you’re seeking, is by moving your focus from What’s in it for me? to thinking about What’s in it for them? When someone is able to help you they’ll feel good about that, but always make sure to take care of them in return.

Lastly, don’t just to get in touch;  stay in touch. When you build relationships you build your credibility and your stature in your arena. So when things aren’t working, remember that networking can help.

If you want more ideas about bringing in business, I can help. I’ve been a retail reporter at Women’s Wear Daily and Home Furnishings News, a columnist at the Miami Herald and a correspondent at People.

I’ve also handled the marketing and public relations at major corporations and small businesses. Need a speaker or a consultant? Connect with me at LinkedIn, or follow me on Twitter @laureltielis.

Read Ka-Ching! How to Ring Up More Sales, for easy and effective ways to bring in more business, or get in touch at Ask Laurel (one word) at laureltielis.com.

Copyright © 2012 Laurel Tielis

 

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