Networking isn’t:

:: Only talking to people when you’re asking for a referral or a favor.

:: Going to a Chamber of Commerce Event or BNI meeting and talking about yourself constantly and passing out a stack of business cards.

Networking is basically building relationships. Adding value to others lives (they’ll reciprocate). Making people aware of what you do and how you can serve them.

So here are some tips:

People generally lean on the people or businesses they’re comfortable with and know rather than searching out and ‘interviewing’ a bunch of different solutions.

So do all of your friends, family members, neighbors and anyone else you have a relationship with know exactly how you can help them?

Make sure they do. Reach out. Start a conversation. Your career will come up. It doesn’t need to be the primary topic.

Facebook, personal emails, phone calls and visits for coffee are your friend.

Mass emails are not.

Most people are passive about connecting with others, so you’ll need to be the proactive one.

Send real holiday and birthday cards and be sure to always send a nice note, or at least an email, for events like marriages, children, new jobs, etc. People really do remember these things.

You probably won’t see much immediate gratification, but the business growth will come…I promise.

My favorite way to get people to proactively get people to spread the word or open doors for you – ask for their advice.

Tell them you’re looking for new clients (or whatever you actually are looking for) and be specific.

Tell them you’d really appreciate their advice.

They’ll help.

They’ll likely help more than you’d expect.

You never know where you’re going to meet a new client or important connection.

Increase your chances of doing so by being social when you’re out in public. Talk to the person next to you in line at Starbucks.

Start conversations. Ask questions. Listen.

Conversation is a skill, and most people who will never grow their business will ignore it and spend their time texting or tweeting instead of actually talking to the human beings around them.

Don’t be like most people.

Sure – it’s uncomfortable to talk to strangers. It’s not easy.

Neither is building a great business.

If you’re not willing to do one you’re probably going to have trouble doing the other.

Are you going out?

Get out there and physically meet people.

If someone wants to have lunch and you can spare the time, do it.

If a friend is hosting an event, go support them.

The best contacts are still made face-to-face.

Networking is unpredictable, and you never know who’s going to turn out to be a great new contact.

Meeting people is great. But to actually grow a business from networking you have to get people’s contact information and follow up.

Don’t hand them a card and ask them to follow up with you.

That’s reactive.

Success is exclusively the property of the proactive.

Follow up on it the next day with a short e-mail or phone call.

When you do meet new people, expect them to do their homework.
Manage your online reputation.

How does your website look?

Have you finished your LinkedIn profile?

Does your Facebook page represent you the way it should?

Doing it the right way:

:: Be Referable – If you’re great at what you do and people have a great experience working with you – they’re more likely to help connect you.

:: Be Different (In a positive way) – If you’re like everyone else people won’t talk about you. But don’t mistake that for trying to stand out in superficial ways. Stand out by delivering an extraordinary experience or just being a great friend…not by acting like a fool.

:: Represent Yourself Well – As a business owner you’re always on stage. Remember that.

:: Give Sincere Complements and Recognize People – When you admire something about another person – tell them. When a client does something well – recognize them.

:: Listen & Show Interest – Listen to what the people you meet are saying instead of just waiting for your turn to speak.

Don’t fidget, look at your phone and focus on the person or people you’re talking with.

So start working on your network right now.

Ask for help, offer value, and maintain the relationships.

And remember, the best networkers build strong relationships before they ever need them.


– Pat Rigsby