Networking Your Way “Networking is getting what you want by helping others get what they want.”
Zig Ziglar (1926-Present), motivational speaker & author

Every week, I check my email, mailbox, and newspaper to see what networking events are on the horizon. I’m a typical extrovert – the more opportunities I have to meet people, the happier I am. As I consider which events to attend, I’m like a kid in the candy store

In contrast, my partner sees networking events on the same level as going to the dentist to have wisdom teeth removed. She’s thrilled that I like the networking scene, since it keeps her from having to attend such events.

Surveys show that only a fraction of the populace (between 10-20%) enjoys networking while the vast majority either prefers to avoid it or vehemently dislikes it. One reason why networking is so unpopular is that many people lack the strategies to make it effective.

I’ve developed seven approaches to networking that make it a productive way to find clients while having fun at the same time. I cannot promise that adopting these ideas will convert you into an enthusiastic networker, but they will make you more effective.

1) Givers gain

When you concentrate on being a resource to others with whom you’re networking rather than maximizing referrals for yourself, good things happen. Whether you call it karma or the golden rule, you’ll notice more referrals and business coming your way when you help others reach their objectives.

2) Show real interest in others

Many people are insecure about the impression that they make on others or think that networking is about meeting as many people as possible. As a result, they fail to connect with the people that they meet. Take time to ask open-ended questions, listen to answers, and make follow-up inquiries. People love talking about themselves and being heard. Soon you’ll find that your interest is reciprocated, and referrals will flow in both directions.

3) Regular attendance

To paraphrase Woody Allen, “Half of succeeding in life is just showing up.” Many people drop out of networking groups because they feel like they aren’t getting sufficient leads. Often, these drop-outs share a common habit. They attend networking events on such an infrequent basis that they don’t allow enough time to develop relationships that instill a level of trust that leads to referrals.

4) Rule of five Networking Your Way

A friend of mine had a bad habit of always hanging out with people that he knew at networking events. Then, he committed to meeting five new people at every social occasion. Several of these contacts eventually became customers.

5) Meet outside Networking Your Way

Whenever I see the results from a networking group start to diminish, I commit to getting together with individuals for coffee or lunch. During these meetings, we learn about each other’s businesses, develop greater confidence and understanding, and the referrals start to flow.

6) Specificity Networking Your Way

Never assume that other people understand what constitutes a good lead for you. People have a hard enough time keeping up with their own activities. It’s too much to ask people to know what you need. Rather, the more specific you are in communicating not just the type but also the name of companies that you wish to do business with, the more likely you are to receive introductions to people whom you find valuable.

7) Name Tag Marketing Networking Your Way

Do you rely on those low-priced stick-on “Hello. My name is ___” name tags at networking events? One of the best marketing expenses is the least inexpensive. Purchase a custom name tag that people can read from at least ten feet away. This name tag should contain your logo, name (in large font), and perhaps, a distinctive title. I’ve found great success with the title “Chief Galvanizer” because that describes what I do in a memorable way that makes sense for my name. What title can you use to initiate an interesting conversation?

If some of these networking strategies work for you, please borrow them. If you have some other ideas, please let me know so I can share them with others.

Patrick Galvin, the “Chief Galvanizer,” started Galvin Communications to help companies galvanize sales through creative marketing rather than expensive advertising. In Buzz Bulletin, his monthly ezine, he demonstrates how you can increase your visibility, credibility, and sales with word of mouth marketing, PR, and other innovative tactics. He is a popular keynote presenter at corporate and trade association conferences throughout North America.