Build Your Business Through Networking

Joe Love

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Here’s one of the most important success principles you’ll ever learn. It is this: The more people you know and who know you in a favorable way, the more successful you will be in your business or profession.

When you look around at the most successful people in your city, industry, or profession, you will find that they are the ones who are known and respected by the greatest number of people. One of the hallmarks of highly successful men and women, and most self-made millionaires, is that they network continually, everywhere they go and with almost everyone they meet. By learning and developing the skill of networking you can move ahead faster, rise further, and accomplish more in a shorter period of time.

Networking should be an integral part of any marketing plan. Networking produces word of mouth, which in turn produces referrals. Every businessperson and professional knows that word of mouth is the most effective and least expensive approach to attracting new business. Yet few people really understand how they can create it.

Networking is making contact to establish relationships that can lead to business. Sometimes the path to business is direct; other times it is indirect leading to referrals. Often times the person who you meet at a networking event will know someone else who needs your products or services.

Many people go to networking events hoping to business right then and there, but it very rarely works that way. Business is not done directly at networking event. When you attend a networking event, your goal should be to meet two or three people, find a reason to follow-up, and start a relationship. Any future business will come from an indirect referral, someone they know who might need your products or services.

Networks often have a greater impact than their size might indicate. Each member of a network knows dozens of people who, in turn, know dozens of others, and so on. Because of this mushroom effect, a group of 30 or 40 people might know literally thousands of other people throughout the local, national, and even international business community. The possibilities are enormous. Being a member of a well-organized network is like having dozens of salespeople working for you all the time. Each referring prospective customers your way.

Before you begin to network, you must have a positive attitude. When you join a networking group, remain focused on the reason why you’re there. Too many people go to networking events and get caught up in nit-picking, such as “the speaker was mediocre, " as so on. These factors are secondary to the quality of contacts you are making. Never loose sight of the reason why you‘re there.

It is also important to understand that people buy from people they know and trust. So to effectively network you must be a good listener. Listen to the people you meet to see how you might assist them in what they do. Giving first and giving more than receiving is a very important rule of networking.

Contacts to establish relationships that can lead to business, only happen when the relationship is mutually beneficial. Networking is giving first, and then receiving. If one party does all the giving, then the relationship will not last and the networking ends. Networking relationships takes work and cooperation by all parties involved.

Networking is not a skill you are born with, it is an acquired skill. It is developed through education, training, and practice. Many business people spend plenty of time trying to network, but very few spend any time trying to learn how to do it correctly. The way you learn to network is by reading books and listening to audio programs about networking, and by talking to other people who network well. And most importantly, practice what you learn.

Before you attend any networking event you must have clearly defined, realistic goals. Most people go to networking events with the goal of handing out as many business cards as they can. This is wrong. Your goal in networking should not be to pass out business cards. Your goal should be to receive as many business cards as you can. Your goal should be to make as many contacts and get as much information as you can that will lead to increased business.

At networking events, make sure your nametag identifies your company or profession. Always carry plenty of well-designed business cards with you. Use the backs of the cards you receive from others to make notes that will help your memory kick in about each individual. And, carry a card case with the cards of other people you network with, so you can hand one to anyone interested in their services.

When you attend a networking event, greet people, hand out your card, and then ask for their card. Introduce yourself in a way that is brief, effective, and memorable. Take the time to plan and rehearse your introduction so you can make the most out of your first 60 seconds. Prepare an easy-to-understand overview of what you do, or the product or service you offer.

Here’s an example of a simple and effective introduction sequence you can use:

* Give your name.

* Give your business name or profession.

* Give a benefit statement about one particular product or service you offer that tells people what you do that benefits others.

* Then, get them to talk about themselves, and listen carefully.

The key to success in networking is follow-up. Just like any other form of marketing, it takes time to cultivate the relationship before a lead can be converted to a referral or an actual sale. You must follow-up with your new contact with an invitation to coffee, lunch, or an after-hours meeting. Always send a card, note, or e-mail to the people you’ve met within twenty-four hours after the event. Mentioning some key points from your initial contact in your follow-up note is a great relationship builder.

Always remember that the most successful people and companies are those that are the most trusted. Trust doesn’t happen overnight. You must gain the confidence of other people by nurturing long-lasting relationships. Only then will you see a steady crop of new customers, referred by the people with whom you’ve networked.

What it really comes down to is this: You can have anything you want in business, or in life, if you’re willing to help enough other people get what they want. It is a simple and time-tested universal law. Yet, it is still a mystery to so many people in business. When you send a few people a day out to help other businesses in your network, you’ll find that the door also swings the other way: thousands of customers every year will go out of their way to buy from you, because they will be driven to your business through the power of networking.

Copyright© 2004 by Joe Love and JLM & Associates, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide

Joe Love draws on his 25 years of experience helping both individuals and companies build their businesses, increase profits, and achieve total success. A former ad agency executive and marketing consultant, Joe’s work in personal development focuses on helping his clients identify hidden marketable assets that create windfall opportunities and profits, as well as sound personal happiness and peace.

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