December 2, 2012

"Getting “Worked Up” About Networking!"

Today's guest blogger is Dianne D. Beaton from New Hampshire. Dianne has been with us before and she always shares terrific insight. Today Dianne's focus is on the something that began with cavemen; networking. Various styles have been debated since the very first business function and the debate is really about opening up other avenues to successful business encounters.

Note: before we begin let's remember; 'tis the season. The following link is great advice for those holiday parties you'll be attending whether it's for your local HBA or your company. Sometimes we forget that we are always in the business spotlight and the holiday season is not an exception to the rule. If anything, it becomes magnified so let's remember the Holiday Office Party Dos and Don'ts (click here). 

"Getting “Worked Up” About Networking!"
  by Dianne D. Beaton, CGA, CAPS
     2DiFore Marketing Solutions

It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. You’ve heard this time and again in your business career and with the economy still being  a challenge, you’re finally starting to believe that it’s the people and connections that are going to get you opportunities instead of the schools or programs you’ve participated in.
Networking requires a little bit of practice, but with preparation, you can use this important business and personal marketing skill to your advantage. 
How to prepare
Some people actually object to self-marketing, thinking that it is somehow dirty and not “necessary”, after all, “If I’m good enough, people will figure it out by themselves.” The truth of the matter is that if you don’t toot your own horn, no one will hear you.
There is a fine line between marketing your skills and bragging about what you can do. Ways to sharpen your self-marketing message include:  
1.    Prepare a 30-second elevator speech. If someone asks you what it is you do, you should be able to succinctly tell them in 30 seconds or less what it is you do and what value it is that you bring to the table. Focus more on what it is that you help your customer to accomplish and less on your outstanding credentials. If people know that you can solve problems, they will seek you out. At a minimum, you should be able to articulate what you do and why, for whom, and what makes your doing it special or different from others doing the same thing.
2.    Dress the part. While you don’t need to wear a 3-piece suit, you certainly should look like a professional. Knowing that people make immediate decisions based on appearance, make an effort to look like someone who is reliable and dedicated to her work.
3.    Be prepared. Carry plenty of business cards, a small notebook, and some pens. When people give you their cards, make a quick notation on the back, which will help you remember who it was that gave it to you. You should also note the date on the back of your business card before handing it to a new contact.
Mind set
Before you attend a networking event, find out what the purpose or goal of the event is. Is it a meeting for people who are looking for jobs? Is it a gathering of experts in a field? Identify the purpose of the meeting and then specifically adapt what you’ll say about your company to that purpose.
Some people equate networking to public speaking and they get nervous (you’ve probably heard that some people rate the fear of public speaking higher than death.) While some networking events are organized with an agenda where you need to formally introduce yourself, others are more casual. Find out what the event’s agenda is and then prepare. Ways to network locally include: 
·         Local Chamber of Commerce events
·         Group or organization events
·         Volunteer opportunities 
Tips for networking success include:
·         Network with the goal of succeeding. Ways to do this include volunteering to help with the set up or break down of an event. If you become known as a reliable resource, people notice.
·         When you’re at networking events, remember that people like to talk about themselves and their companies. Ask open-ended questions with “who, what, where, when, and how” as opposed to those that can be answered with a simple yes or no. This form of questioning opens up the discussion and shows listeners that you are interested in them and what it is they can offer.
·         Spread your wings. Go to as many applicable events as you can. You just never know when or where you might meet a person with whom you might make a connection. Networking is all about making connections and you just might be amazed at how often connections are made on side comments (“Really? You raise chickens? My sister’s neighbor raises chickens!”)
·         Quickly follow up on any contacts you’ve made. A simple “touching base” by e-mail works just fine. In the e-mail, make sure to identify how you met the person – “It was a pleasure meeting you at Friday’s Chamber event” – and remind him of the solutions and products you are able to bring to the table that would bring value to his business.

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