Monday, December 29, 2008

Networking: A Key to Success

Today's guest post comes from Nickey Hollenbach of the blog Virtual Caffeine and owner of Personal Touch Concierge Service, LLC. I'd like to personally say, "thanks!" to Nickey for sharing her expertise with the readers of Relatively Journalizing.

Most people don’t realize just how important networking is! Especially you college grads, right? So I’d like to dedicate this post to the upcoming business generation who most likely have not thought a lot about the value of networking. The mindset you need to be in is networking all the time. After you practice these tips, you’ll find you’re networking without even thinking about it!

1. Go out and talk to people.
If you’re a little on the shy side, the first thing you need to do is GET OVER IT! Practice talking to people by just making small talk. If you’re standing in line (anywhere), smile at the person near you and comment on the weather, the line you’re in, etc. Take it slow if you’re not ready for a full-blown conversation. Don’t try to make up stuff just to talk. And listen if that person is talking to you! It’s the only way you’ll learn something — you already know what you’ve got to say! Try talking to someone you don’t know every single time you go out in public. After awhile, it will be as normal as breathing.

For those of us that have no problem striking up a conversation, do so at every opportunity you have. Don’t butt in someone’s conversation, and do not underestimate the power of a genuine, friendly smile!

2. Concentrate on helping other people connect.
The fastest way to get someone to remember you is to give them a great reason to remember you — that you helped them. So you need to ask the question first (what do you do?) and really pay attention. Any questions pop up in your mind about what they do? Ask them. They’ll know you’re really interested in them, and people love to feel listened-to. Ask them if they have a card and then write notes on the back that will help you remember them. After awhile, you’ll realize that these cards you have are gold. You are bound to know someone who can benefit from the services or products of someone from that card. Pass along a recommendation and let that person know you’ve passed along their name. If something good comes out of the connection — they will remember you!

3. Follow-up, follow-up, follow-up — but don’t be a PITA.
After every networking event you go to, send an email to the people whose cards you’ve acquired! Don’t try to sell them anything! Keep it short and simple. If you’ve met someone you think can benefit from knowing you, ask them if you can meet them for coffee. Tell them you think the two of you can be mutually beneficial and you’d love the chance to LEARN MORE ABOUT WHAT THEY DO. What THEY do, not what you do. If they say they’re too busy or some other excuse, don’t push it.

4. Tell them what you’re trying to do with your service or product.
Once you get to meet someone one-on-one, that’s when you tell them what you do and how and why. The fastest way to make someone suspicious or bore them to tears is to tell them how wonderful you are. Instead, tell them some success stories that you’re involved with; how you helped X somehow. Keep it short and to the point! If you’re not sure how it will sound, write it down, come back to it the next day and reread it.

5. Come up with and then practice your 30-second commercial.
Come up with your 30-second commercial (because that’s all the time you’ve got to get someone’s interest) and how your service or product can help them. Do not be pushy! That will get you nowhere and you will lose their trust. One thing I do that seems to get people’s attention is that when I get asked what I do, I say, “I bring peace of mind to small businesses.” My company name is Personal Touch Concierge Service, LLC. If that doesn’t get their attention, nothing will! But every single time their interest is peaked I get a follow-up question. I’m then answering their questions and giving them the information that they are asking and not blathering on about what I think they want to hear about me.

6. Join a networking group.
There are plenty out there available at all costs. Your best bet to start out is probably your local Chamber of Commerce. The fee should be very reasonable and they should have at least one card mixer a month. Join committees on the Chamber and get your name recognized. There are also others such as BNI, LeTip, etc. Just Google networking groups and see what’s in your area.

7. Social media.
And of course now is the time to clean up your Facebook and/or MySpace profile and take off all the pictures that make you look less than, shall we say, business-like. Employers and clients are checking out these sites more and more before they hire someone. If they find something rather embarrassing on one of these sites, kiss your client — and possibly even your reputation — bye-bye.

LinkedIn is a must-be-on site for any businessperson. And network like crazy through this site. Invite your sane friends, colleagues, past clients, reputable relatives . . . you’ll grow with connections.

Follow these tips and you’ll be well on your way to establishing trustworthy relationships and getting your name out there! Nickey Hollenbach can be reached at nickeyh [at] ptconciergeservice [dot] com.

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