Networking plays an integral role in our business building landscape and this is true for providers of professional services as well as for printers, web designers, coaches and so on.
Perhaps it wasn’t always the case, but there is an increasing need for professionals to be visible in the marketplace.
Networking can help you to do just that and implemented strategically, can produce a positive ROT (return on time).
Here are tips on how to make your business networking more effective:
Not all groups are created equal. We all know that the time set aside for networking must not impede your ability to handle your clients and so it is imperative that you select your networking events and groups with great care. There are some groups that while comprised of nice individuals, are simply not going to be effective for your practice. Choose carefully and attend several meetings or events as a guest before making a commitment.
Reciprocity is key. There is a networking slogan that says “givers get” and while not 100% accurate 100% of the time (what is?!), you can certainly count on getting more introductions if, in fact, you make them as well. Don’t become “branded” as someone that is more than happy to be on the receiving end of introductions, but never make them in return. If you are going to engage in networking, and be successful at doing so, you must be a “proactive” giver.
Staying on the grid means the difference between success and failure. Going to meetings and events is only half the story. Following up and staying on the grid of all of these networking connections is the all-important second piece of the puzzle. Never was “out of sight, out of mind” so true. You must stay visible so that when and if an appropriate introduction can be made, you will be top-of-mind and receive it.
Have a plan. Since we know that going to networking meetings and events can be awfully time-consuming so it’s even more important to have a plan for what you want to do and whom you want to meet when you are at the event. Sure, you might walk into the room and know some of the attendees but is it really worthwhile to stand around and talk to them when there are new people to meet? Do you really want to spend the entire evening talking to one person even though dis-engaging seems especially arduous? Be prepared for the “game” (of networking) and you have a much better chance to get positive results.
Follow-up. Gather those cards but don’t stash them in a drawer somewhere. Take the time and have a process for following up with the people that you met and do so in a timely manner.
You are taking time from your billable hours to attend networking events. Network effectively and you’ll be certain to see an increase in your billable hours and ROI from your efforts.
PS The rise in the number of Zoom meetings as a result of the Covid pandemic didn’t change the need for most of these tips. I’ve purposely referred to “meetings” because in my opinion, we will soon be gathering in-person (or I hope so anyway!)