Why are some people “luckier” than others? Well folks, I’m here to tell you that “luck” has nothing to do with it. One reason it seems as if one person is more successful than another, is that they’ve managed to build a network of people who KNOW, LIKE and TRUST them.
Having a good network will greatly improve your chance of success in business. But getting a good network requires thought, desire and action. Here are some simple guidelines to increase your return on your investment in networking:
1. Networking in Your Business Plan:
Networking is one of the most cost effective ways of business development when done in a consistent, disciplined fashion. By networking, you are able to build awareness of you, your products and services, you are better able to determine high priority prospects and you are able to build value relationships. Within your business plan, you should identify who are your best prospects, so you know who—groups, associations, individuals, to network with (see part 1 on Target Marketing). Finally, you should view networking as a critical business activity, just as you view working on existing clients. Creating a pipeline of prospects is the lifeblood of your business.
2. Set Networking Goals:
You should target two to four of the same networking groups to meet with each and every month. Don’t make a habit of being a “guest networker” because it’s not effective. There is an old advertising rule that says, a prospect has to see an ad seven times before it takes hold in their consciousness. Your objective is to build value relationships not transactional ones. By attending the same meetings consistently, you will achieve one of your primary business objectives—to be KNOWN. In addition, you should set a goal to meet with a specific number of networking contacts each and every week. So your SMART networking goal could read like this: Attend four  networking meetings this month (e.g., BNI, Chamber of Commerce, Professional Association, Meet-up, etc.) and conduct eight  face to face prospecting conversations and two  closing conversations.
3. Be Intentional Prior to Attending:
Practice your “rap”—that is, your 30 second elevator pitch. Your elevator pitch should be clear, concise and create curiosity about you and your business. A simple script could read as follows: I am (insert your profession here), for (insert the name of your company here). I do (insert what you do here), for (state who you serve here), so that they can (insert the benefit/value your product of service provides them here).
For each networking meeting, you should have a clear objective—your ROI. For example, you could set a goal for yourself of identifying four  connections—prospects, resource or center of influence, and schedule two  face to face meetings for the following week. That way, you have a clear, objective way of judging your networking effectiveness. Overtime, you will be able to see the results of your efforting on your bottomline.
Check your “attitude” prior to entering the meeting. Put on your positive, happy and confident armor. Make sure you are ready to listen twice as much as you speak. And lastly, make sure you are ready to be a resource for others—become a “go giver.”
4. Creating “RAIN”--Conducting the networking conversation:
Most people approach networking with the objective of talking about themselves or attempting to sell their product or services at the point of contact. The reality is though, people don’t want to be sold. Nor do they care about you or your product unless it fills a need of theirs. So how do you find this out…by using the following conversation technique: Building Rapport with them (e.g., How are you?); asking about their Aspirations and Afflictions (e.g., What gets you excited? What keeps you up at night?); inquiring about the Impact of these conditions or circumstances (e.g., How does that affect ____?); then creating a New reality for them—by listening or by being a resource or by providing something that addresses their need. This is how you become liked…when you show that you care.
5. How to Become Trusted--Have a Follow up Plan:
Networking is absolutely essential to the survival of your business. Networking without follow up is a waste of your time. If you never schedule one on one--face time, with those that you’ve met, you’ve simply wasted your time. A follow up plan could include, but is not limited to the following: Allocate a portion of your week to making contact with those whom you’ve networked in the past; Conduct one on one meetings with those you recently met; Connect online with those who have a Facebook or LinkedIn account; Touch everyone in your database, at least, quarterly; Send a thank you note or an email or interesting article; Go meet your connects in THEIR office; Become a resource to your contact—mentor, mastermind, be an ear for them, business partner; Invite them to an event, etc., etc.
To network effectively, you need to make a plan to fish with your fishing net instead of a fishing pole. Once you’ve identified who your audience is, you need to go fishing where they are. Next, you need to set clear and simple objectives for your networking activities, such as: Goals for each networking meeting; An effective 30 second pitch; Conducting the conversation; Maintaining a positive, “can do” mentality. And finally you need goals for following up with your new found connections. By following these tried and true suggestions, you will achieve a basic business objective. That is to be known, liked and trusted by the marketplace. In so doing, you will exponentially increase your networking effectiveness and build your long term revenue stream.