The Fine Art of Networking
October 26, 2011 at 5:39 AM
This week’s blog begins almost four months ago on Father’s Day to be exact. I was having lunch with my wife discussing job opportunities for my daughter after she graduates from college next year. My daughter’s grades are impeccable at this point in her college career. The downside is that she doesn’t have a work history in her field which will be crucial during the interview process. Not to bore you, but after lunch we went to the supermarket. I was wearing a t-shirt that said UMassDad. A woman approached us, telling me that she loved the shirt and asked where she may be able to get one. I told her I bought it during my daughter’s freshman year. She informed me that she was the Director of Coop and Internship at my daughter’s school. The woman continued to talk to my wife and I for 15 minutes about the virtues of networking, making contacts, and getting referrals. We exchanged information, connected on Linkedin, and my daughter was able to make contact and hopefully be on better footing next year.
I raise this story to shed light on the importance of networking. I hadn’t realized the full importance of it myself, and the extent which it’s done on a daily basis in the business world and interpersonally. Of course there are a lot of clichés involved. How can a person just walk into a room full of strangers and start talking? The short answer is: You have to work at it. I was afraid to do it, but now have no trouble at all. I approach a person, smile, and say hello. The other person usually strikes up a conversation, we may know some of the same people, or there may be an opportunity to help one another. The details always come out and can’t stay hidden. If you are in sales, marketing, or management, networking should be part of your makeup. Will everything create an opportunity? Maybe not, but it is a good goal to shoot for.
Another good way of networking is to talk to your existing customer base. They love to provide ideas and will tell you openly and honestly what is on their mind. Currently, we are calling all of our customers and offering the option to receive invoices via email. Almost everyone I spoke with endorsed the idea. We spoke about the care they receive on support calls and handling of problems. This way of networking reinforces that you care about the customer and are willing to take their ideas and make changes to make them happier.
Next week our company will be involved in a trade show. This is another example of networking at its finest. You stand, sit, or walk around for a few hours and people come over to talk with you about their products and you talk to them about theirs. You generate interest and hopefully revenue for your company. Some of the interest may be for partnership opportunities, but still valuable indeed. During some of the trade shows specific time is set aside for people to let their hair down, be comfortable and to open up. Some of your clients may be in attendance and can assist in your networking. Maybe you can help the client network into a new opportunity for their company. This type of action goes a long way.
Where I’m leading is the benefit for contractors out there. Are you doing enough during the down economy to network and put yourself out there? Do you talk to the same people over and over and spin your wheels? Do you want more but are unsure of how to get it? You are in a unique group where the future is bright and optimism can catapult you into the next big thing. Once the business comes your way from all the networking you plan on doing, do you possess the Business Management Software to handle your activity? If you’ve answered no then it is time for STRUCTURE.