Networking! The first time I heard about this, I closed my eyes and thought, “Oh please don’t tell me that this is important. I don’t know how to do this.” Yes, not unlike the subject of public speaking, I had a networking phobia and I really did not “get it”.
It took a while for me to get started. Since I paid a membership fee, I kept going for the food and a way to get out of the house.
I discovered a silver lining to all this. Working out of my home as a lone consultant, I broke out of my comfort zone. I felt that I was accomplishing something more than tickling my computer keys and improving my website.
I found myself beginning to putting two and two together. I sat and I listened to others. I did nothing but listen and smile. I began to make connections with people as they approached me to tell me more about their business. I got swept up by their passion and their dreams.
We all had dreams and we were all living for those dreams. I had to admire these people. They were trying to figure it out, just like me. I found myself building a rapport with those people who inspired me.
I got it! Relationships! It was all about going out and building relationships. And it became evident that this was a talent that I had all along. I just never tapped into it. I was emerging as a synchronistic process. I started noticing that I was drawn to the right people for what I could offer and what they could offer.
I took their cards and urged them to contact me.
I got excited about how I could help them.
I started making appointments, attending events, reaching out on social media to develop relationships. The next thing I knew, referrals started to “happen”. Appreciation and thank you notes went out. And then it came back.
Fun! Once I got into the swing of things, I did not have enough time to do all the networking that I wanted to. I was now being asked to do presentations to entire groups that were potential clients. I was building my business on referrals and no longer had time to pace the floors and fret over maximizing my website. I was not starting from a place of needing or even wanting something from these individuals. I started with a spark that happens when two people “click”. It was much more exciting to promote someone else and have others promote me.
Passion! I have created a Resource Center of all my networking partners’ cards and brochures. These are “my partners” and I know that each of them has a pocket full of my cards and everything nice to say about my mission and services. What a great feeling! Most importantly, I believe in these people and I am proud to present them to others.
My marketing expenses were significantly reduced. Now, networking is a way of life. Everyone I meet is up for my inquiry as to what they do for a living and what their aspirations are. And the conversation flows from the other person’s conviction and determination. I never hand out a business card unless I have been asked and it is easy to ask someone else for theirs.
My business began to unfold and I even made some changes as it became apparent what the market needed and what it didn’t.
Now, my schedule is full. I don’t work for myself anymore. I work for the community of businesses of which I am an important addition since my new vantage point began.
My mission is bigger now and my scope of work has narrowed as I have been able to target my market for feedback. I am doing what I love to do and only what I love to do. I am keeping records, making appointments, writing and giving presentations, and most enthusiastically eating well.
I found the heart in networking. It is all about making referrals. Referrals are the golden nuggets that build a business’s reputation. Referrals and “word of mouth” bring your reputation to the community. I come highly recommended to my clients.
A word of caution! You will get business from doing this and you need to be ready for it. You need to coordinate your networking fun with working! In a way, this can all be so enjoyable that you may find that you are on the phone and out and about only to disappoint your potential clients. Follow up. Track your leads and keep notes on your calls to them.
Take all those cards and plant them like seeds in an Excel spreadsheet. Keep notes. Engage in the process of isolating your networking efforts and tracking the results so that you can get to work. In the long run, it will be your accomplishments that will become the back bone of your business. First, it will all be about what you say you can do. But to keep the heart of networking alive and well, you must show your accomplishments to your associates.
Tools for networking:
- Business Cards
- Tracking Sheet
- Thank You Cards
- Job well done
- Capabilities Statement
Written by: Cheryl Ann De Pace
Contract Connections Administration Services, LLC