Networking is more than a card and a handshake |

Networking is more than a card and a handshake

Kelly Coffey
Vail, CO, Colorado

A colleague of mine compared networking to farming. The seeds he planted months earlier were finally sprouting. He was now very busy harvesting all the leads from months of nurturing his business relationships.

There’s a perception of networking as a guy with a phony smile, handing out business cards and glad-handing everyone in the room. I’ve met a few people who come close to resembling this caricature. I don’t like getting cornered by those people, I won’t do business with those people, and I surely don’t want to become one of those people.

Still, I find networking and attending networking events of great value. As a sales-driving tool, a semi-formal networking plan should be in any marketing mix.

Networking involves creating and growing business relationships. Don’t expect one handshake to lead to a sale, however. Like the farmer analogy, successful networking is more about putting in the work up front to reap rewards later.

Don’t limit yourself to business-specific events. Plenty of unexpected networking opportunities exist: Volunteering events, the grocery store, even your friend’s Sunday barbecue. The more different social circles you’re a part of, the bigger your networking pool will become.

Participate in The Longevity Project

The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.

Whether the situation is business or social, one of the most common ice-breaker questions is “What do you do?” You might as well use that to your advantage. Create your “elevator pitch” that sums up what you do succinctly and accurately, and you can deliver it in any conversation.

The people who take best advantage of a networking event are not the glad-handing card dispensers. It’s a better strategy to look for quality instead of quantity.

In fact, how you would act at your friends’ barbecue is similar to the way you should act at a business mixer. Engage in conversation. Let the people you’re speaking with know what you do quickly and accurately. Most importantly, listen to them.

Networking isn’t just about meeting new people, though. The first impression is not nearly as important as the ongoing contact you maintain with your leads. Follow up with a friendly e-mail. When you run into somebody you’ve met before, remember details of past conversations. Find excuses to contact your leads, even if they don’t involve generating a sale.

Stay persistent by attending networking events regularly and keeping in touch with your business contacts. You, too, will have a good lead-harvest season.

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