Networking HQ BLOG with Larry James

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Planes & Boats & Trains & Other Places to Network!

Long train journeys, airplane trips, airport departure lounges, corporate hospitality events, product launches, trade shows, conferences – all offer the chance to start a conversation with someone who may become a valuable contact when networking. Anywhere people congregate there are possibilities.

netpost-itAll you have to be is a little out-going and strike up a conversation. I once booked a major speech at a Fortune 500 because I resisted the urge to snooze on an airplane and chose instead to talk to a stranger in the next seat. He began the conversation by asking if I had been on a holiday.

You can network anywhere. It’s been said that the best time to network is when you don’t have to. In other words, when you have so much business that you don’t need to. So. . . guess that means that you should be networking all the time. Networking can be the most rewarding and beneficial when there is no immediate need to be fulfilled.

You should take every opportunity to build your network before you need it. It really doesn’t matter where or when. Networking is a key strategy to growing a successful business. It is an on-going process in which we continually hone our skills.

Practice having purposeful conversations with others. People love to talk about themselves. Ask a question that will give them the opportunity.

Business really is about relationships especially in today’s competitive marketplace where the economy has created numerous entrepreneurs who are all competing for the same piece of pie. Knowing the right person or persons is critical to converting networking activities into dollars.

For me, small networking groups have proven to be the most dependable source for networking. They usually have only one member per business category. Once you have come to understand and trust each other, they will recommend you to friends and colleagues. Many of the smaller networking groups hold structured breakfast or lunch meetings where you can give a 30 second connection to describe the product or service you offer. This prevents that “tongue-tied” moment when someone asks you what you do.

I suggest that you choose your group carefully. Research the group. Talk to the members. Explore their success with the group. Choose a group that focuses on business rather than social values. The purpose of business networking groups is to grow business from the outside. You can always socialize away from the group. I believe the groups that place the emphasis on social aspects are far less effective in the long run. If you really are willing to work at it, your business will thrive like never before with the right network.

Smaller groups tend to meet weekly, are more structured and limit the number of missed meetings. They also usually monitor the referrals given. You are never more than seven days away from seeing each other. Frequency works. The more you show up, the more favorably you will be in the minds of your networking friends. Accountability is a must. You will usually find that groups with strong leaders hold their members accountable for attendance and referrals given. Smaller groups can do this better than the large “anyone and everyone is invited” groups.

If they are having a conversation with others about your product or service, they can recommend you. It’s not smart to expect immediate results, however, you can always expect quicker results the more often you see each other. The secret to getting referrals from the relationships you have established is to “give” referrals.

Another secret to getting more referrals is to make a contribution to the group. That may consist of volunteering for a committee, running for an officer position, or greeting people as they arrive at the meeting. Ask to be a speaker or host for an upcoming event. The more you put in, the more you get out. The heavier your involvement, the faster you will see results.

HOT TIP: To help you remember to give referrals, keep your group contacts in the front of your mind all the time. Have several business cards of every member and keep it with you are all times. Visit an office supply store and purchase a business card holder. Whenever a conversation arises where it’s appropriate to recommend them, you have their information at the ready. You become known as a hub of useful contacts because you are always ready to refer your friends. This is one of those networking skills that it pays to hone.

Stay away from groups that appear to have cliques. The mindset of a successful networker is to provide value to others. . . not just your favorite friends.

It seems to me that the main advantage of a large networking event with no accountability is you will almost always find fresh faces to meet. However, most of the people attending these large events are not very savvy regarding networking etiquette. Many of them attend networking organizations to get business for themselves. You will usually find a lot of “what’s in it for me” people at large events. They are usually quick to tell everything they know about themselves and their product. Read, “Networking Events are a Waste of Time. . .

The only purpose of attending a large networking event is to get exposure, meet people and build a relationship. Building the relationship takes time. You cannot rush it. If you try to make a sale on the spot you are making a big mistake. That’s the “me, me, me” mentality and that doesn’t work!

Chambers of Commerce, professional associations, service organizations are also good places to network. However, to get a return on your investment, you must carefully weigh how much time you are involved versus how well the group pays off with long-term relationships that can become endless referral sources of business.

I’ve had minor success by hanging out in shopping malls, food courts, kid’s soccer game, and (with the utmost finesse) some church groups. Random interactions with people often offer results in unusual ways. While networking meeting are great opportunities, there are some very useful online tools and Websites that can help you connect with people from all backgrounds. They are usually better for meeting people, not networking in its truest sense.

Volunteering for charity organizations and not-for-profit groups can also help you build connections.

The power of people, technology, collaboration, conversation, and relationship goes far beyond the present moment. All you need is an open mind and an intent to genuinely assist and connect with others. People are everywhere. Wherever you go always be prepared to network!

netHQ

Copyright © 2009 – Larry James. Larry James is a Professional Speaker, Author and Coach. He presents networking seminars nationally and “Networking” coaching by telephone or one-on-one. His latest book is, Ten Commitments of Networking: Creative Ways to Maximize Your Personal Connections! Visit ” Networking HQ!”

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NOTE: All articles and networking tips listed in this BLOG are available for reprint in magazines, periodicals, newsletters, newspapers, eZINEs, on the Internet or on your own Website. Click here for details.

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