While everyone is all agog over social media, good old fashioned networking remains one of the most effective and inexpensive ways to promote your services. It’s an essential skill that will allow you to develop partnerships, build contacts, and generate business.
That’s not to say you should ditch your social media efforts. On the contrary, social media should always be an integral part of your networking initiatives. But there is nothing like quality face-to-face time with your target market.
If you’re not networking, you’re ‘not working’ according to Andrea Nierenberg, consultant and author of Million Dollar Networking and Nonstop Networking, whom I interviewed for an article on networking several years ago. She believes that when you’re networking, your goals are to identify new business opportunities, cultivate relationships, and keep those powerful contacts for life.
Networking is not about constantly selling your service -- that’s the negative connotation associated with it and why many are adverse to it. Some people only use networking when they need something, when it should be more of a long-term process of relationship building, creating connections, communication, and follow-up.
Here are 6 tips that will make you a better networker:
Develop a 140-character pitch. 20-second pitches are out. Speak like you tweet. Keep it short, to the point, and memorable. If you’re an EMS administrator, instead of saying you work for an EMS service, tell people you save people’s lives. Now, you've got their attention, and can delve a little deeper about who you work for and a little about your organization.
Take the initiative. Don’t wait for people to come to you. Approach them first. Before attending an event, do some research on the types of people that you know may be there.
Nurture your current contacts. Once you land a contact, always ask people their preferred method of contact: email, phone, etc. Then touch base with them periodically. Email them an article that may be of interest to them or simply say hello. Find ways to reach out and to be in touch.
Listen and ask questions actively. Concentrate on learning about the people you meet in a network setting. You should be engaged and interested. Don’t be afraid to ask personal questions such as what city they live in or where they are from. Ask about their families. They aren’t just business contacts -- reat them like new friends.
Always carry your business cards. Business cards are the currency of the networking transaction. If you happen to arrive at a networking event without business cards, make sure you get the card of the other person and send information the next day.
Think about how you could help those you meet. Ask yourself in every conversation, “How can I help this person?” Nobody wants to do something for you until they build up that trust factor. When you’re networking, you should be looking for the opportunity to help others. You can accomplish this by asking questions, gathering information, offering contacts, and advice.
Ultimately, people want to do business with those whom they like and trust. Use networking as an opportunity to get to know people better and find out how you can help them grow their business. Your networking will be successful once you start looking at it as a way to help others.
By Daniel Casciato
For more information on the author, visit www.danielcasciato.com, follow him on Twitter, or friend him on Facebook.