What comes to mind when I mention networking?

Some of you love it while some may hate it. I suspect many people think networking is all about sales and generating leads. That’s why many folks dread networking. Maybe it’s the small talk or not knowing what to say.

Now, I have a different definition for networking. For me, it is about helping others: being a resource, giving a referral or a connection. The priority isn’t about me or my business.

That is my why and why I really love networking. I network with intention. It is about helping others, and I’m excited to learn about someone new and their work. Today, I’ll share some of my tips, lessons, and phrases I use when networking.

First Tip

What is your why? Why do you need to network? Mine is about helping others, maybe your why is to build up your professional network, or if you’re new to an area, get to know more folks.  How do you measure if you are successful with your networking? Do you have goals around who you want to meet or how many meetings you’ll schedule?

For me, there are several categories of networking:

  1. Groups 

I’m a member of several professional groups as well as a Rotary Club. I’ll attend weekly or monthly meetings with these groups and often see new faces. My purpose is to learn and be an available resource.

  1. Individual meetings

These are intentional, one-on-one meetings over Zoom to connect with someone. My goal is to learn more about the person, their business, and their needs. I keep notes and make sure I do my promised follow up steps.

Second Tip

How to structure your time.  You can go overboard with networking and find you’re not using your time effectively. Now, as I said, I love networking. Maybe too much. Those who know me have been kind to compliment me on my networking. But make sure to balance your networking time and refer back to your why.

My lesson is “don’t let networking get in the way of getting the work done.”

For me, I do 30-minute Zoom meetings for introductions. I usually save in-person meetings for follow up as well as those groups and associations I mentioned. If needed, the second step would be an in-person meeting if we want to continue our conversation. Often times, one meeting is sufficient.

Third Tip

50/50 rule. Be mindful not to dominate the conversation. This should be an open, back and forth conversation – not a sales pitch. I had a situation with a Zoom meeting with someone who spoke 95% of the time about himself and his business. He even had a PowerPoint to show during our 30-minute Zoom call. 

I think I managed to say, “Hi, I’m Michelle”, and then he took over. You know what? At the 30-minute mark, I told him I had to leave for another meeting. My impression of him wasn’t positive and I’m not likely to connect with him further. 

Lesson: Don’t be that guy.

What you want to do is be an active listener. Ask open questions. Some of my favorite questions are “What keeps you busy during the day?” This allows someone to share a variety of things: work, personal, hobbies, etc. Next is “Who is your ideal client/donor?” Now, I’m learning more about how I can help this person.

Fourth Tip

If you invited someone to an in-person coffee/lunch, offer to pay. Especially, if you are picking their brain or getting free advice. Now, the person may still want to split the ticket, but be sure to offer.

Final Tip

Stay organized. Be sure to have a plan to stay organized and to do your follow up. For me, that might be asking to add them to my newsletter or sending an email to make an introduction. I make sure to take notes of what I’ve promised to do, remember it has to be written down.

I’m at a stage of life, if it’s not written down, it doesn’t exist!

I use a great CRM – best name ever, Less Annoying CRM. $10 per month! It’s great. I keep notes from my networking conversations and meeting and make sure it’s entered in my CRM. I can refer back to those notes if I need to connect again with that person.

Networking doesn’t have to be scary. You might be building your professional network, building a business, or growing a nonprofit. You need to be out and meeting people. Having a plan and knowing your value will make this a positive experience.

Check out Plaid for Women’s Facebook Page. Check out the video from my Facebook Live on networking posted on September 29th.

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