The following are several techniques organized into five separate but, related categories that can help you.
Attitude & Action
- Project a winning attitude. This is a given. If you are positive and enthusiastic, people will want to be around you and to help you. If you are gloomy and negative, others will avoid you.
- Participate actively in groups and organizations. Effective networking and relationship-building takes more than paying dues, putting your name in a directory and showing up for meetings. You must demonstrate that you will take the time and make the effort to contribute to the group. Therefore, volunteer for committees or serve as an officer. This shows people your ability to work as a team player and helps to reveal and develop your skills. One of the best groups to join is a club called Toastmaster's. This is an organization that helps you with speaking skills - but you also meet some great people in the process.
- Serve others in your network. This is the absolute key to building and benefiting from your network. You should always be thinking, "How can I serve?" instead of "What can I get?" If you come across as desperate or as a "taker," you won't find people willing to help you. One specific way to serve others is by sending them articles or other information of interest. You might also refer business leads or potential customers.
If you are positive and enthusiastic, people will want to be around you and to help you.
- If you refer someone, make sure that the person mentions your name as the source of the referral. Be explicit. You might say, "Give Jane a call, and please tell her that I referred you." In some instances, you may even call Jane and let her know that John Smith will be contacting her. (Note: The next time you see or speak to Jane, remember to ask if the referred person called and how it turned out.)
- Be selective; don't refer every person you meet. Respect the time of those in your network. Referring "unqualified" leads will reflect poorly on you. Ask yourself, whether or not a particular referral is really going to be of value to your network partner. Keep in mind that the key is the quality, not quantity, of the leads you supply.
- Keep your name in front of people on a regular basis. People in your network aren't thinking of you all the time. Therefore, you must find a way to periodically get your name in front of them. But be sure to do it in a way that provides value. One excellent method is a newsletter. It can be very simple: a single sheet with inspirational quotes or information of interest within your industry. Be creative!
- Send promotional items that people will keep (and use!) What do you do with many of the wall calendars, key chains or plastic rulers you receive? If you're like most people, you either throw them away or bury them in a desk drawer never again to see the light of day. On the other hand, a cube of memo sheets or other interesting desk accessories are likely to be kept and displayed. Pick the right item and your name will be in front of your network every day.
- Have distinctive and colorful business cards. For starters, carefully select a memorable name for your company. Also, design a striking and unique logo. A dull black and white card just won't set you apart. (Note: You needn't be overly flashy or spend huge sums of money. Even a two-color business card with an interesting logo will be quite attractive and won't cost a fortune.) Remember: your promotional materials are a reflection of you. If they look un-interesting and dull ... well, you get the idea.
Respect the time of those in your network. Referring "unqualified" leads will reflect poorly on you.
- Be a good listener. In your conversations, focus on drawing other people out. Let them talk about their careers and interests. In return, you will be perceived as caring, concerned and intelligent. Sure, this is Dale Carnegie 101, but it works!
- Call people from time to time without a hidden agenda. Ever hear from an old friend who supposedly phones just to say hello, but then gets to the "real" reason for the call? How does that make you feet? To avoid being perceived in this way, take five minutes, each day and call one person in your network simply to ask how he or she is doing and to offer your support and encouragement.
- Take advantage of everyday opportunities to meet people. You can make excellent contacts just about anywhere - at the health club or in line at the supermarket. You never know from what seed your next valuable relationship will sprout.
- Treat every person as important not just the "influential" ones. Don't be a snob. The person you meet (whether or not he or she is the boss) may have a friend or relative who can benefit from your product or service. So, when speaking to someone at a meeting or party, give that person your undivided attention. Don't gaze around looking for "more -important people" to talk to.
- At meetings and seminars, make it a point to meet different people. Don't sit with the same group at every gathering. While it's great to talk with friends for part of the meeting, you'll reap greater benefits if you make the extra effort to meet new faces.
- Be willing to go beyond your comfort zone. For instance, if you have the urge to introduce yourself to someone, DO IT! You might hesitate, thinking that the person is too important or too busy to speak with you. Even if you're nervous, force yourself to move forward and make contact. You'll get more comfortable as time goes on.
- Ask for what you want. By helping others, you've now earned the right to request assistance yourself. Don't be shy. As long as you've done your best to serve those in your network, they will be more than willing to return the favor.