So, you’ve been networking for a while now (or maybe you just got started). You’ve got a few connections, and you want to know what to do next to make networking work for you. There are some important principles to follow as you leverage and continue to build your network, so that it can help you become more successful and more connected to your customers,
the business world, and your community.
1) Remember that networking is a long game. At its essence, you are building a network of people who know, like, and trust you. That doesn’t happen with one luncheon and a couple of chick chats. The best networkers have been at it for years.
That may seem intimidating, but building a business or career is already a long game, so why not make a commitment to networking and have some fun along the way? Before you know it, you’ll be one of those veteran networking ladies that everyone seems to know.
2) Make referrals. Remember that wise saying: “It is better to give than to receive.” It is almost impossible to overestimate the ripple effect on your network, your business, and your state of mind when you keep an eye out for great outgoing referrals.
- For the person who needs a product or service, a great referral provides a resource they can trust. And that reflects trustworthiness and excellence back to you.
- For the person who gets a new client thanks to your referral, not only are you helping their business, but you are also giving them a vote of confidence—which is a boost and a positive association with you even if that particular referral doesn’t work out.
- For you, the attitude of wanting the people in your network to succeed attracts success to you as well.
One of the best ways to make referrals is when someone you know asks for recommendations, because you know the referral will be welcome. And don’t just comment on their post or hand them a business card—take the extra step to facilitate a direct connection. Start a text or email thread, introduce your two contacts to each other, and even suggest an in-person (or video)
meeting among the three of you if the situation calls for it.
3) Ask for connections. This is so much easier, smoother, and more fun than trying to make a sale. Did you meet someone at the last event who has a target market that is similar to yours, but is offering a different service or product? Set up a one-on-one to talk about how you can send each other referrals. If that works out great and your clients love her work, get together again and talk about creative collaborations. Maybe you can both be more successful if you work together
on a product or service offering.
1) Don’t take it personally when someone isn’t interested in your product or service, even if you thought they were a great prospect and took the time to meet them over lunch. Remember, the goal of networking is not sales. Your goal is referrals! That means whenever you meet with someone, you want to know what they do, make sure they know what you do, and be the kind of person they would tell their grandmother to call for your product or service.
2) Don’t make unwise or “spam” referrals. If someone has a negative experience with a product or service provider you recommended to them, that reflects back on your judgment and trustworthiness. And while creative referrals can be wonderful, be aware of whether you are bombarding any particular person with too many or irrelevant recommendations. One great referral at the right time is worth more than any number of irrelevant referrals.
3) Don’t ignore, “ghost,” or string along a contact. If you don’t want someone’s product or service, just let them know. Don’t waste your time or theirs stringing them along; do pay them the respect of a clear response. That said, you never know who is going to be a great thread in your network. When you meet someone you could like and trust, get to know them better, even when you have no foreseeable need for their business. You never know when someone in your network might need what they have to offer. They may run across someone who needs your services. Or maybe they will just turn out to be a great friend!
The Golden Rule of Networking
While we hope the examples above are helpful, you can really boil down long-term networking success to one simple rule. Outgoing referrals, collaboration, respectful communication, honest dealing—it all comes down to the golden rule of networking:
Be the kind of contact that you want to have in your own network.
What are some of your favorite examples of networking “dos” and “don’ts”? Feel free to share in the comments.
Genet Jones, owner of The Thoughtful Wordsmith, has been writing for fun since 1989 and for profit since 2005. She also enjoys editing (yes, really), yoga, mountain biking, and exploring Northwest Arkansas.