I just finished a terrific week – highlight was the networking course I taught at Western Carolina University. Obviously because anyone who knows me knows I am passionate about networking and I love to share my ideas; but in addition I had a big surprise in how interested and engaged these students were. I seem to be finding that a lot more these days when it comes to sales and especially networking.

Why networking?

I find that networking is something people either love or hate, do or don’t do, but either way in this new economy people are finding that love it or hate it – it is the most dependable road to effective growth.

In my opinion…

The term networking is misunderstood. Many people simply don’t like networking because they do not understand how to do it effectively. Networking is one of those terms we throw out without any real explanation of what it is and how to do it. I mean think about it – when have you ever really been shown how to network? We have all taken plenty of sales classes, negotiating classes, the “art of the close” classes – but rarely if ever have we had instruction on the best ways to make the connection in the first place. So no wonder it frustrates people – without a networking strategy, without a networking plan, how can you possibly really get good at turning your connections into your customers?

Networking is one of the those wonderful skills that is simple enough that you can grasp quickly and implement an effective strategy immediately. And then spend a lifetime perfecting and mastering the art – all the while making your life more fun, interesting and productive!

So how do you get started?

The simple strategy of networking is as follows:

  1. Define who you are trying to networking with – as clearly and descriptively as possible. Who are you looking for? Who do you want to meet?
  2. Once you understand that – then define where you think you could meet people that fit that description. Are they at Rotary? are they at church? Is joining a basketball team at the YMCA the right place to bump into this type of individual? Perhaps volunteering? or taking up a new sport and joining and active group? It doesn’t matter – it is just important that you put yourself in the right group to meet the people you want to meet.
  3. Pre-plan – define what to say and what to talk about. This is people’s number one fear of networking – what do I say? First, remember the conversation is not about you – you are there to learn about the other person and determine how you can help them first – then to determine if they are a good/qualified connection for you. So you need to develop a set of questions that will help you arrive at these conclusions. The most important things are to ask open ended questions, ensure you do it in conversational form, and prepare and practice.
  4. Follow-up – networking is the first step – making networking effective only happens when you follow-up. You need to develop a follow-up strategy to win at turning your connections into your clients.
Now, put it into action…

These steps are easy to understand, easy to prepare for and even easier to implement. You can draft your own details and descriptions to each step or for a complete outline, some proven techniques and some support, join us at the chamber of commerce in Hendersonville on September 23, for our Selling In The New Economy Series. This month we will be covering the art of turning your connections into your clients – details of effective networking and effective sales calls.