Clients often ask me “Is networking really worth my time?” My answer…”It depends on your motives.” That may seem like a strange answer but motives matter. People want to like you but first they have to trust you and in order for them to trust you they have to get to know you and that takes time. If people think you are just dropping in to “sell them something” they won’t trust you, if they see that you have sticking power and are genuinely interested in them and what they do your chances that someone will either do business with you or refer someone to you will significantly increase.
Picking a Networking Group
One of the keys to professional networking is your commitment to a particular group or groups. It is important to get to know a group or organization before you commit to it. Visit a meeting or two, research the group online, review the member directory if it’s public, look for posts on social media about the group.
If it’s a local group and you want to stay local ask some business owners if they’ve attended the group and their thoughts on it, if it’s a national group reach out to some of the meeting leaders and ask how they run the meetings and what their attendance is like. Getting familiar with a group before you join will help you decide if it’s right for you and if there are people in the group you feel you may be able to support as referral partners as well as business connections.
Sticking with Your Decision
Once you’ve chosen a group, stick with it. Attending on a regular basis increases your credibility because you become a familiar face and people get the opportunity to know you. All too often people quit before the other members really get a chance to know them and trust them.
Attending meetings on a regular basis shows that you are a person who follows through on your commitments and can be relied on, that speaks volumes for you as a person and a business owner. People learn to trust you and remember your name the more they see you and the more they see you the more opportunities they have to get to know you and what you do.
Your Approach to Networking
Your approach to networking makes a difference with how and why you connect with people. When you approach networking from the perspective of “Who can I help?” and you follow through with that mindset consistently your connections will grow as will your business. Make appointments with people between networking events to discuss if and how you can help one another.
Developing strong referral partnerships should be the goal of your networking. Knowing that your ultimate goal in networking is growing your business is very important but it shouldn’t be the driving factor to every conversation you engage in at a networking event or you will find yourself talking to the wall.
Zig Ziglar says “You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.” Networking takes time and effort (that is why it has the word “work” in it) but it is well worth it if you have the right motives.