The more time you commit to networking, the more impactful and productive your efforts will be. For some of us who rely heavily on strategic networking to drive our business sometimes up to 25% of our time may be devoted exclusively to these efforts. Every hour you commit to contacting, cultivating and nurturing your network can pay big dividends over time both professionally and personally. A few 'best practices' that will work:
- Think of three clients that you have developed. Go back and trace how you met each one and identify any individual that played a part in helping you connect to that person. Find your own creative way to say thank you to every single person that led to that connection, and periodically “drip” on them to stay on their radar screen.
- Excel at remembering names, as it’s a skill that will set you apart from most people. Listen carefully when the person introduces themselves and make an effort to use their name a few times during the conversation. Image association may will also help. Remember to always 'smize'-- smile with your eyes authentically.
- Keep a journal of “small talk” topics you can use in conversation. These can be anything related to current events, industry developments, books and movies, or community issues.
- Develop a 20-second infomercial about yourself and practice it until it becomes spontaneous and natural. You may want to create multiple versions for different audiences.
- Collect as much information about contacts as possible. Strive to go beyond basic contact information and capture data on their interests, family, important dates, and recent events (job change, marriage, children etc.) Go back to your 'Information Bank".
- Look for unique and creative ways to generate informal “face time” with contacts. Try going for a walk together, meeting up at a museum or art gallery, or catch-up at some type of special interest event they are interested in.
- Never let your initial efforts fall by the wayside. Commit to implementing a process to nurture your network contacts with at least two “touches” each month. Whether via email, phone, text, handwritten note, Social media or face-to-face it’s important that you stay top-of-mind.
“The best networkers have the most diversified networks. Everyone you know, have met, or have any connection with at all is a potential member of your network universe.” —Andrea Nierenberg, President, Nierenberg Consulting Group