As 2014 comes to a close, I wanted to provide some networking tips that will hopefully help make 2015 a more profitable year. Note that this list is not designed to be exhaustive or objective (i.e. these are my own tips) so feel free to disagree.
I originally intended to write 4 do’s and 4 don’ts for the 8 days of Hanukkah. But, because I had more to say, I am now going to write 6 do’s and 6 don’t for the 12 days of Christmas. But, whichever you celebrate (or if you celebrate both, neither or something else), these tips are designed for you!
The 6 Don’t (i.e. “Don’t be naughty”)
1. At a networking event, don’t hand out your card unless somebody requests it. If they want your card, they will ask for it. If not, it comes off pushy and desperate. Even better, create a v-card on your smart phone and offer to email or text it. Most people will say yes to that and appreciate that your information can be easily added to their Contacts.
2. If you meet somebody for the first time and get their card, contact them first and ask their permission before adding them to your mailing list. Don’t just collect cards and add people to your mailing list. At best, they will likely unsubscribe and think of you as a pushy salesperson. At worst, they will note this as Spam which hurts your relationship with your email marketer and may be against the law unless you offer an Opt Out option.
3. (Note. This one, though timely, is going to be controversial.) Don’t send out the identical “canned” Holiday e-card to your entire mailing list. These e-cards usually get deleted since they show almost no thought; are clearly a “lazy attempt” at getting your name in front of people and everybody knows they involve no effort when they are mass emailed. It is more effective to skip this entirely or send out a separate email or text message (even if you “cut and paste” the wording) to 25-100 people. Of course one or two personal lines is always the best.
4. When you meet someone at a networking event, try to find out about them and see how you can help them. Don’t look at them as a sales opportunity and try to sell them your product or service at the event. It is a bad form and doesn’t generally work. Find out what their “pain is” (i.e. what they need) and see how you can ease that pain through your contacts, advice or, sometimes, through your product or service if appropriate (e.g. they need help with social media and you are a LinkedIn expert).
5. Remember that the second part of Network is “work.” Have fun socializing with people at a networking event or holiday party and eating and drinking. But, do not do too much of the latter. The reason for attending the event is to try to grow your business in one way or another, not to load up on the food or booze.
6. Make introductions (even email introductions) that are valuable to both people not just the person being introduced. That way, people will see you as a good networking resource as opposed to just a “lead generator.”
The 6 Do’s (i.e. “Do be nice”)
- In your “elevator speech” at a networking meeting focus on what you are best at and what distinguishes your product or service. Try to convey why you are different and which area in your business is your sweet spot rather than trying to be all things to everyone (i.e. avoid the meaningless term “full service”).
- Send an email or make a phone call to thank everybody who you met in person or who sends you an article or invitation (See 5 below). First, it shows that you value their time and company. Second, it gives you another opportunity to further the relationship.
- Ask people you meet and who you see at a networking event who they would like to meet. It demonstrates your willingness to help the person build his or her business and it also gives you the potential opportunity to make a referral. It is even better if you actually come up with a suggestion for a referral first based upon what the person told you since it reinforces that you were listening.
- At a network event, be open to meeting everybody and anybody who is either introduced to you or who comes up to speak with you. You never know whom somebody knows or where the conversation will go. It is great to meet your natural referral sources. But focusing on them to the exclusion of somebody else can be shortsighted and often detrimental. (A shout out to the great networker Tony Celano for this one).
- If you see an interesting article or event that you think would be useful for one of your contacts, email a copy of it or an invitation to the event (as the case may be) with a short, personal note. They may not read it or attend, but they will appreciate you thinking of them.
- Try to be a valuable resource to your contact list, as well as their friends, relatives, etc. by trying to assist in any way possible even when there is no money to be made by assisting. Answer every question and respond to every inquiry. If one of your contacts sends you an email introduction, even if it is not somebody you are interested in meeting, respond to it anyway. There is no need to set up a meeting or a phone call but an email acknowledgment is required.
Have a great holiday season and a very Happy New Year. Feel free to follow me on Twitter for my frequent mortgage updates and news @mortgage_dan.