Networking is the practice of creating community. Creating a business requires creating teams of people. When you're a small business, many of the people on your 'team' are other businesses and professionals you meet in your daily adventures.
- Offer value when you network—don't just look for where you can take something for yourself.
- Listen for people’s commitments and how to acknowledge them and serve them.
Where can you build community? What communities are you already in?
- Friends and family—make sure that you know what they’re up to, too.
- Can your friends and family articulate what you do and identify other people you’d like to help?
- Neighbors and acquaintances: are there people you know who don't know what you do?
Networking in mixed crowds. Ask genuinely what people are interested in, and be prepared to answer the same question. No one wants to hear a sales pitch at a friend's barbeque, but will gladly tell you all about their career or their vacation plans.
Followup. Make sure that you follow up with people you meet, to cement the connection you began to create when you first talked to them.
- Handwritten notes are your best bet
- Phone calls and emails, if personal enough, are a distant second
- Send referrals to people you do business with, or want to do business with
Convert to next steps
- Always ask people if they would like to have coffee or lunch to continue your conversation.
- Carry a calendar, and ask to set a time right then.
- Have times & places in mind already so that you can cluster-book and become a regular at a cafe or restaurant—another potential new community.
- Confirm the appointment if you are unsure that they’ll make it
Manage your success
- There’s an truth in business which applies particularly well to networking: If you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it.
- Track your leads and connections, and more importantly, track what you’ve done for them recently.