The Golden Rules Of Networking

If you are in sales, own a business or are an employee, having a vast network will be an asset. Many of my recruitment clients have often stipulated they need a candidate with a strong network when I’ve recruited for sales professionals. Networking both in person and online is a sure way to build a reputation, secure clients and of course referrals. 

Never underestimate the value of every single person you know or meet as each one could become a prospect, client or referrer.  A good way to start building your network is to add everyone you meet to a CRM.  Once you have entered your contacts tag them with a keyword i.e.  “prospect” “referrer” “client” “personal” etc.  Note: prospects only convert to clients once they have paid for your service or product! A great cloud-based CRM is – and it’s free up to 2 users.
Attending networking events should be part of your overall marketing. I suggest joining industry associations, chambers of commerce, attending trade shows and networking breakfasts and subscribe to their newsletters to keep informed of upcoming events.
The Golden Rule for networking is “It’s not about me, it’s about what I can do for YOU”.  Working the room collecting business cards from as many people as you can is not good networking. It’s about building rapport and relationships. If you attend every network event with the attitude of adding value to others, you will soon earn respect.
Many people hate the idea of walking into a room full of people they don’t know. What I do, in the unlikely event I don’t know someone, is to go somebody who is standing alone and start a conversation. However, I’ve been networking in Sydney for many years and it would be highly unlikely I don’t know at least one person at every event I attend. These days I discover people who I have met on Social Media are at many events I attend, and we finally get to meet in person.
After an introduction you might like to ask how the person is enjoying the event or bring up a newsworthy topic (because of course you would have read the latest news prior to attending). Ask questions about the other person, show an interest, keep eye contact and avoid looking around the room for someone more interesting. Remember everyone you meet could be a potential prospect, client or referrer!  You just don’t know who the person you are talking to is connected to. During your conversation make a mental note of what is discussed and if you get a chance make a note on the back of the business card if you have been offered one. I sometimes fold the tip of the card over to remind me that there is potential for a great connection with this person and to follow up. If you take some mental notes of the conversations a good way to follow up is by sending a relevant article or news item to your new connection.
When you get back to your office you can upload their details in your CRM and make notes on whatever information you have gathered and to follow up.  As a rule never subscribe anyone to your newsletter unless you have specifically spoken about this to them and they have agreed.

Remember also:
  • Take plenty of business cards
  • Go out of your comfort zone and approach people
  • Smile – after all you want people to feel they can approach you
  • Develop a decent handshake
  • If you are sitting at a table, try and introduce yourself to everyone
  • If you don’t see anyone you know, or standing alone, and you are too shy to go up to a group, ask the organiser to introduce you to someone
  • Have fun 
  • Keeping in touch

Once you have started to build a network keeping in touch is crucial.These are the things that I use:
  • Everything entered into CRM i.e. prospects/client’s birthdays, children’s names any information that you gather so when you touch base again, your prospect will be amazed that you remembered these things.
  • Connect on Social Media
  • Scrubbing your database i.e. calling to see if the information is still relevant
  • Sending postcards and other items in the mail
  • Sending articles from news, whitepapers etc
  • An effective way to make an impression after you have met someone is to send them a personalised postcard.  

I have had postcards made up with a picture on the front (i.e. coffee cup) and our logo which states “Great to meet you”…and on the back my photo and the words “I’d love to buy you a cup of coffee and I’ll be in touch soon”…. You can send the postcard in the mail to people you meet and what to develop a relationship with.  Put a note in your CRM to call in a few days.  Believe me it makes an impression.

By Debbie Carr