Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Widen Your Circle

To make things happen, you need to meet more people, let them know what you can offer and keep in contact with them. You must actively widen your circle of acquaintances.

How do you meet people? There are lots of ways, for example:
• through mutual friends;
• going to networking events such as breakfasts, lunches, cocktail parties or dinners
• joining clubs or associations in accordance with your interests
• joining a service club like Rotary, Lions or Zonta.
• joining a group in which the members refer business to each other (e.g. a Leads Club)
• through the Internet, using social media sites.

If you don’t like going to networking events, please think again. They present fantastic opportunities to meet new people, in a situation where everyone is there for the same reason – to build business.

There are lots of books and seminars about “networking”, but they tend to focus on how to cope in social situations. They provide advice about how to behave at cocktail parties; how to avoid embarrassing yourself; what to do if you don’t know anyone there; how to “work the room”, how to shake hands; what to do with business cards; how to stay sober; how to make introductions and how to get rid of boring people.

All that is important, but it’s important to move beyond "coping", because:

1. it's about survival, not success. Many people focus on simply surviving the event, so they can get home and relax. If you want to be successful, networking should be a way of life for you.

2. it focuses your attention on you, not on the people you will be meeting. If you are thinking about your own discomfort, you won’t give value and you won' tget the most out of the event. You must shift your attention from yourself and your discomfort to your conversation partner and their world.

3. it treats the event as an end in itself. It’s not. Meeting people is only a first step. Very rarely will anything happen as a result of simply meeting someone at an event and giving them your business card.

It doesn’t really matter how you meet a person; what matters is what you do next. What matters is the relationship you build.

When you return to the office with a collection of business cards in your bag or pocket, what do you do with them? Most people do nothing. Some file them in a business card box. Some throw them away.

If you do anything at all to follow up, that will put you ahead of most people.

I’m not saying that you should hit them with a sales pitch. Think about how you would feel if someone you met for the first time last night immediately starting trying to sell stuff to you. I clearly remember the first time I attended a “womens’ networking” event in the late 1980’s. I was delighted when a woman befriended me. However, a week later she tried to sell me insurance. It was a really unpleasant experience, and put me off networking events for quite a while.

What matters is the relationship you build with the person you’ve met. Maybe they will send you work one day. Or refer someone to you, or recommend you to someone. Or introduce you to someone who one day becomes a major client.

Approach networking events with anticipation, not dread. They’re a bit like the old children’s party game “Lucky Dip”, where everyone receives a mystery gift. You never know what you will get – but you will get something.

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