Networking Works With the Right Attitude

One of the tried and true ways business owners use to get new business is networking. We’ve all done this. Go to a “networking” event, introduce yourself to someone new, offer a business card, connect on LinkedIn, and then never talk to them again. After awhile, you reach the point of asking yourself: “How did I get 500+ connections on LinkedIn? Who are these people?”

Some of us are naturals at networking. I don’t mind going to these events because I usually meet at least one person who is interesting to talk to. Whether or not I get a business lead out of it is secondary. However, with the right attitude, you can turn these networking activities into new business. For example, I belong to a very small city business networking group. Great people, hearts of gold, but mostly small businesses and a few professionals. However, out of this group I met a marketing business consultant who became a good connection. We chatted at the event, connected on LinkedIn, and met for coffee. After that, for about a year, we followed each other on social media and saw each other occasionally at the same networking group. Then, I needed a speaker for an event and remembered her background would be perfect. Around the same time, she needed a public relations consultant to bring in on a new business pitch so we ended up pitching together and won the business.

That’s why we need to make the most of our connections. It’s quality and not quantity that count. I don’t want to be just another connection on someone’s LinkedIn page or follower on Twitter. I want the connection to be meaningful.

Here’s a list of “do’s” for making networking actually work:

  • Do take advantage of networking opportunities large and small. Sometimes the smaller ones are better – that’s what happened with me.
  • Do take the time to ask questions and get to know at least two people at each event. Just working the room handing out business cards isn’t going to build relationships.
  • Do follow up with those two people and see if there is some mutually beneficial reason to further the relationship. Be open. It could be that they just “know” a lot of people in the community and could introduce you to others.
  • Do keep the relationship going. Follow each other on social media but also meet or talk a few times a year to stay current on any new business opportunities.
  • Do volunteer to help with the larger networking groups that need leaders. This keeps you in front of the group and more people will see you in action and know what you can offer.

So, the next time you hesitate about going to a networking event. Give it a try. Take your business cards with you, your best smile, and make those connections meaningful.