Monday, February 23, 2009

Five Networking Tips For Everyone In The Current Economy

There is a lot of interest in the topic of networking. During the boom-boom days many people would roll their eyes when I would opine about the power of cultivating long-lasting, mutually beneficial business relationships. Now everyone seems to be interested.

Book sales are rising and readership of my blog has nearly doubled since the start of the economic meltdown. There is also an uptick in speaking opportunities - as more law firms, sales-oriented companies and professional business associations are showing interest in my 90-minute presentation: "Some Assembly Required: How to Make, Grow, and Keep Your Business Relationships".

Networking matters! For companies who are hungry for sales, suddenly the economy has them interested in ways to build stronger referral partnerships. With the tough times comes more competition, and that makes every referral that much more important.

For those who have been laid off who are seeking new employment, the reality is that most jobs are filled, directly or indirectly, through a contact within a company or with a recruiter. You need people if you want a job.

And those who have been laid off that want to start their own business - They know first hand that their network matters more than ever as they launch their new new thing. When bootstapping an idea it is the word-of-mouth marketing opportunities that get you started.

Here are 5 tips for how to network in the touch economy that will help job seekers, entrepreneurs, and anyone whose company is looking for more clients:

1. Networking takes time. If you are suddenly in need of sales or recently laid off, you cannot expect to create a network overnight. The people you meet for the first time will not know enough about you to be an instant resource. Knowing that this is a process that will take months (if not years) to create results will keep you from being discouraged. Always network with a long-term horizon. Networking cannot help you with short-term goals unless you already have a very strong list of contacts.

2. Ask others for help. If you have avoided networking in the past and now realize that was a mistake, admit it. Not just to yourself (although that is a good place to start), but also fess up to the people you know and new folks that you meet. Tell them that you had never understood about the power of business relationships and ask them for help in getting you started. Most people enjoy helping others, but you need to let them know what you need from them.

3. Remember that networking is NOT just about YOUR needs. You must establish mutually beneficial relationships in order to see real results from networking. The problem is that when people are up against a wall they often forget that other people need assistance as well. Never have a conversation with anyone in your network without asking them what they need to succeed. You will not always be able to be of assistance to others, but when you can provide them with ideas, introductions or other value...make sure that you do so in a timely manner. Helping others is the fastest way to create a network. Expecting people to help you without your investment in helping others will not only fail, but get you listed as a taker.

4. Do not try to network EVERYWHERE. Select two or three business organizations that interest you and that draw the right people in your areas of interest and participate in all of those groups events. If you try to hit too many groups you will end up just dropping in on them "sometimes". Drop in networking does not lead to building real relationships. It takes multiple interactions with people to establish connections, so if you spread yourself too thin then you will never create a true network.

5. Create you own networking events. Be the catalyst that brings others together and you will find that your network will grow. Many people complain about the quality of the networking events they attend, but they do not do anything to improve upon the gatherings. If you cannot find an organization that brings together the people you want to see, then create your own events. With a little effort you can structure new and productive events that will put your name in front of many new people.

Two Bonus Networking Tips For Job Seekers:

1. Do NOT bring your resume to every networking event or individual meeting. If somebody wants your resume, you can easily get them a copy in a timely manner. However, people are often turned off when a resume is shoved into their hands at the first meeting. On the flip side, you do need business cards, as they are an unobtrusive way of making sure others have your contact information. If you have been laid off you can purchase inexpensive cards at Kinkos or Office Depot that can have your name, address, email, phone, etc... If asked for a card you do not want to reply "sorry, I don't have one", as you will appear unprepared.

2. Use "Social Media". If you do not have an account on LinkedIn, you need one. This site has become a regularly used tool by companies and recruiters when they are looking for candidates. If they look for you on the site and you are not there, they will assume you are "out of touch" with this very common business tool. Additionally, you can use LinkedIn (or other social networking sites) to help connect yourself with former colleagues, bosses, vendors, etc.... Any of whom might be able to serve as a contact that could lead you to your next opportunity.

Have A Great Day.


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