By Susan Allard, Business Development Representative at Public Service Credit Union and CWCC Member
Networking [net-wurk-ing]: an association of individuals having a common interest, formed to provide mutual assistance, helpful information, or the like.
Whether newly venturing into the business community or a seasoned expert, networking is a necessary activity – meeting those that can connect us with a potential client or resource, provide useful advice or help us brainstorm new ideas are essential in our growth and development. However, you may ask yourself, “Does networking really work?”
- Mystery: How do I meet people that are my ideal client?
Myth: I need to grab all of the business cards I can.
Reality: If you want to give yourself a follow-up hangover then you just succeeded. If you really want to be effective, network with a purpose. We call this research – know the audience, find those you want to meet and make a list.
- Mystery: Once I meet my ideal connection(s), how do I talk about my business?
Myth: I’ll just blurt out what I do and sell them on the spot. They’ll listen to me.
Reality: OK, stop right there. You just lost at the letter “I.” Be the listener. Ask for their name and what they do, then just absorb the information. Ask leading, specific questions that can be answered with short, succinct sentences. Then respond the same way when they ask. If their business isn’t a fit for you, it might be for someone else you know and vice versa.
- Mystery: How do I walk away from someone that isn’t my ideal target?
Myth: When they stop talking, I’ll jump to my next potential connection.
Reality: Hate to tell you this, but that person may try to bend your ear a lot longer than you had hoped and you won’t get a word in edgewise. Don’t be afraid to stop them. Find a break when they take a breath or end a sentence. If that becomes difficult, interrupt. Thank them for their time and be honest; you came to this event to meet several connections. You aren’t being rude, you are being real. If you are on the other end, please don’t take it as an insult – but do learn how to respond to questions with short answers. After all, you have a purpose, too.
- Mystery: How do I follow-up with the good connections I make?Myth: I’ll just schedule a bunch of coffee appointments.
Reality: Don’t know about you, but I can only handle so many lattes and the same for the lower half of my body. However, it takes time to drive to the appointment, sit there and talk then drive back to work. You have already met face-to-face; send an email, schedule a call and have a chat. You’ll accomplish more in less time and save yourself some gas and extra time at the gym.
In closing, network with a goal – you’ll be much more successful!