1. Know yourself. You must know what makes you unique in the workplace so that you will be able to sell yourself with confidence. What activities do you enjoy doing? What is your comfort level? Have you learned how to work a room? Then join a trade association. Are you a great public speaker? Then present a seminar to a room of potential customers or clients. Do you want to give back to your community? Then volunteer for a charitable cause. Be seen. Be known. But best of all, be yourself.
2. Know your goals. Before you invest the time and energy into joining every group you can think of, you must define your goals. Pick one or two activities that will help you accomplish your objectives.
3. Focus your efforts. Once you have defined your goals, focus your efforts. Be selective. Commit to less, but commit 100%. Work smarter, not harder. You want to build a reputation as a doer, someone who is dependable.
4. Know that opportunities happen when you least expect them. You must have patience. Don't expect to get a new client at every meeting you attend. New business takes years to cultivate. You will enjoy the fruits of your networking labors, but over time. Enjoy the process, and one day you will see the results of your efforts - when you least expect it.
5. Never leave home without your business card. Leave some cards in your briefcase, wallet, and car. Be ready. And when you meet someone, on the back of their card, write down a descriptive sentence about them or a conversation you had. Jot down how you met them. This will help you personalize a follow-up letter. It will help you in the years to come. People love to be remembered.
6. Get to know people before you need them. The bigger your circle of contacts, the more people you will have to call upon - whenever their product or service is needed. If you get to know people before you need them, you establish a relationship. You are not "using" them. Then when you do require their business, they will be more than happy to help.
7. Build relationships. Once you establish a relationship, work at it. As you have heard, 80% of your business comes from 20% of your clients or customers. Build those relationships and maintain them. It is better to have a small loyal following than a large group of non-committed customers.
8. Give to give, not to get. Those who understand networking's powers are those who give. You can't expect to get. You must give without expectation. Your return will come back one-hundred-fold. That's the trick of networking karma.
9. Organize your own group or event. If you can't find a group that you would like to join, then form one of your own. Take initiative. Make things happen. Invite prospective customers or clients to a seminar at your office. Offer value. If you create it, they will come.
10. Have an attitude of gratitude. Always say thank you. Enough said. Thank you.
11. Follow-up. All of your networking efforts will be useless if you do not follow-up. How can you develop relationships if you don't stay in touch? How can you do business with new contacts if their cards are buried in your rolodex? How will they call you if they forgot your name and number? Follow-up. Follow-up. Follow-up.
If you have any suggestions for future columns, please feel free to e-mail me at email@example.com
(c) Debra Scala 2000