Do’s and don’ts for successful networking
19th, Apr 2019
Are you networking effectively? I’m no expert, but I have been inspired by some pros who are much better at it than me. The number one rule is that if you view networking as a way to sell your services or get people to help you, then you probably aren’t being successful. Networking should focus on building long-term relationships. To that end, there are some definite do’s and don’ts that can help improve your results.
Do network with a purpose. Know what you want to accomplish before you go and plan for how you will do it. What groups and events are the best ones? Are you attending to stay in touch with people you already know or to meet new people? Who do you want to meet? Can someone facilitate introductions?
Don’t talk too much. The best way to build relationships is to ask questions and listen carefully. If you spend the whole time talking about yourself, you’ve lost a valuable opportunity. Also don’t monopolize someone’s time. You’re all there to mingle and meet people. Keep it short and continue the conversation the next time you meet.
Do follow up. At a minimum, send a simple email note, add them to your contact database and newsletter list and connect on social media. However, you should also schedule meetings or phone calls with potential referral sources on a regular basis. This is true when you meet new people as well as to keep in touch with your existing contacts. One tip I got recently was to invite several people to a follow up meeting especially if you all have synergies with each other.
Don’t forget to ask how you can help contacts. The key to building strong relationships is to give first. Who would they like to meet? What kind of information would benefit them? Is there something else you can do to assist them with a problem? You want to ask your contacts what they need and sincerely try to be helpful.
Do use social media. Your first step is to have a strong up-to-date LinkedIn profile because people you meet will check you out. Next step is to invite new contacts to connect and add a personal note reminding them where you met. Once they have connected with you, take time to review their profile and look at their contacts. You may find that they know people you would like to know. Also pay attention to what your contacts are posting or doing on social media. It helps you learn more about them, their industry and contacts and also offers opportunities for you to help promote their content or reconnect with them on a regular basis so they continue to remember you long after you met them.
Don’t focus on quantity. What good is it to have hundreds of contacts if they aren’t the right ones or you have no time to stay in touch with that many. Emphasize quality connections. You want to develop stronger relationships with a smaller number of contacts.
Do keep your contact database updated. If your contact information isn’t current, you can’t stay in touch. Add new names to your database as soon as possible after meeting them. Then every time you learn that someone has moved locations, changed jobs, etc. have a process for someone to make those changes in your database. Remember if you send out an email newsletter, check for bounced emails and try to locate the person. If you get a notice on LinkedIn that a contact has a new job, send it to the designated staff person who will make those changes. (By the way, remember to congratulate your contacts too.)
Don’t give up too soon. It takes time to get to know people. Don’t expect to meet someone once or twice and walk away with business. In many cases, you can’t really tell if a networking group will be good for you, until you’ve attended a few events and followed up afterwards with some of the attendees. On the other hand, before you attend, try to find out as much as you can about the group and ask regular attendees questions during and after events to figure out whether the group is a good fit.
I struggle with networking and I think most people feel the same way so we can all use a few pointers. If you have tips, send them to me and I will add to this post and share it with others.