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When you make friends, you make sales. This is the key to successful networking, and this month I’ll share with you how to make it work for you.
1. Take an interest in people and they'll take an interest in you .
In 1937 Dale Carnegie published “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” and more than 70 years later, his book still appears on the bestseller list. His advice that we take an interest in others was and remains integral to effective networking. You meet new people all the time and every one of these people represents a potential opportunity for you to grow your business. But first you need to get to know them; your objective should always be to make friends, not to aggressively shill your products and services. Think of networking as a marathon and not a sprint; build relationships over time with the possibility of reward in the distance. Strive to establish rapport and go from there. The rest will follow in due time.
Always listen more than you talk. Not only will you learn more this way, but you’ll make others feel more important for having been heard. When I network at events, I rarely offer any information about myself unless I’m asked more than once, and even then I’m careful not to say too much. So listen to those you meet, ask for their business cards, and memorize their names immediately. This takes effort, but you’ll be amazed by how much something as simple as remembering a person’s name does to affect the way he or she feels about you.
3. Never network alone.
Always bring someone along with you to an event where you intend to network. Ask a friend or business associate who might benefit from the event to join you. Then as you make your rounds, you can introduce your guest to others as a way of breaking the ice. This “security blanket” will help you approach these events with confidence, and your guest will appreciate your attempts to help him or her meet new people and prospects.
4. Don't focus solely on your networking objectives.
Whether you’re at an industry event or just your neighbor’s pool party, try to have fun and relax without worrying too much about how many new contacts you’re making. You’re not there to seal any new deals, only to lay the groundwork for potential business in the future. When you behave with this in mind, you’ll be more at ease, others will enjoy being around you, and you’ll find your network expanding on its own.
5. Follow up.
Ask for the business card of every new contact you make. The next morning, take the cards of those who you think have the most potential for helping you grow your business and start cultivating them. I often drop a note in the mail telling them how much I enjoyed meeting them. You might send a copy of your company newsletter, or a newspaper clipping on a topic you talked about, or even your grandmother’s apple pie recipe – anything simple you think they might enjoy and that shows your thoughtfulness. Then log away what this person does and be on daily look-out for items that might interest him or her. It really is true that it’s often the small things that make all the difference.
To succeed in business, it’s not what you know or who you know but who knows you when they need you. You have to work hard at keeping your name out there and networking is one of the best ways to do this.