Building and Maximizing Your Network
It’s not what you know but who you know – there’s truth in this business maxim. Knowing the “right” people – those who can help your business thrive – is the payoff from successful networking.
These tips can help you to maximize the business-building value of your network. And, be sure to download the PDF for even more valuable information
Having a clear idea of what you want from your networking efforts will help you decide who should be part of your network. This prioritization will help you select events to attend as well. Chances are you will have many more opportunities to network than you have time for, so prioritizing is key. Consider creating a networking action plan. Set realistic, measurable goals. These can include the number of events you hope to attend in a given time period, how many people you hope to speak to and the goals you hope to achieve from your efforts.
Choose events carefully
To determine which places to go to meet the people who will become part of your network, focus on depth over breadth. Being active in a few organizations that relate to your goals will have more impact than attending a different event every night. Be sure, though, to allow for a little serendipity – impromptu encounters can become rewarding networking opportunities, since you never know who may turn out to be helpful.
Taking an interest in the people you hope to connect with is one of the best ways to prepare for an event. If you find several interesting prospects on an attendee list, for example, learn what you can about their company and the business issues they may be facing by skimming their company website and industry publications. Above all, listen and be interested in what people are saying. Interest and camaraderie can help to build a solid foundation for a relationship.
Fine tune your “presentation”
When you network, people are going to ask about what you do. Create a business description that is concise, easy to understand and does not sound like a sales pitch. Once you’ve developed it, try it out on colleagues, friends, a neighbor, and others until it is as good as it can be. It might help to have a few brief examples of typical projects to help paint a clear picture of what you do.
Create a follow-up plan
What makes for a valuable contact? Ideally, it is one that you can help and that can help you...with no strings attached. In other words, don’t think of yourself as a networker but as a problem-solver, and look for this same characteristic in the people you add to your network. Then start nurturing these valuable contacts. Quickly re-engage with the person – through a brief note referencing a point in your conversation, a quick phone call or an invitation to lunch – to build the foundation for a future relationship.
Have a question about networking? Connect with a SCORE mentor online or in your community today!