I am in my first year of business and working very long hours. I know I need to network and recently attended a lunch which was filled with a lot of people and was a total waste of time. How do I network and how do I make the most of it in the seconds I have to spare every day?
The first thing to do is look at your strategic plan. What are your objectives over the next two years? If it is to build your channels to market, then who will help you do that? Where do you meet them? Who exactly do you want to meet? What network are they in?
You want more sales? What networks are your buyers in? You want to raise your profile in the industry? Which industry group are the industry heavyweights in?
You need money to grow? Same deal. You match your plan with networking opportunities.
The opportunities are both offline and online: LinkedIn is a great way to connect but never overlook the face to face.
I always have a rule that after one coffee, someone is a contact for life. And in fact I can ring them up 10 years later, mention the coffee and then have a chat.
Most importantly, don’t mistake friendship or having a nice time for networking. I know many women who go to large networking functions, swap cards and listen to speakers and they never do any business.
That’s having a nice time and good luck to them. But it’s not networking.
The other tip is to let your work infiltrate your friendship circles. What, I hear you say?
But my idea of a really good dinner party is spending part of the time listening to other entrepreneurs or senior business people talk about the economy and business, where things are going and who is doing what.
I also have a few entrepreneurs with whom I go on long walks. On the way up the beach we solve all the problems in their business. On the way back we solve ours.