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How To Gain The Maximum Return On Investment From Networking

Posted by Nicola Fowler on Aug 5, 2013 1:43:31 PM

Do you have people in your teams who you know need to network more? For those of us who are slightly more mature we will recall this meaning a trip to the golf course, corporate hospitality or a long lunch, however the world today has changed – for most any way!

The primary focus of any networking must be its effectiveness for both parties – will both get what they want and as a result save both time and money.

My first experiences of networking still bring a smile to my face and a shudder down my spine. I was in my teens; my manager told me I needed to network as it was a good source of business.  It sounded like a great idea but I was a novice and therefore had my own idea of what happens.  That idea was lots of friendly people in the same room, all coming up to me (I didn’t need to go and find them), a good lunch, time out of the office – all sounded fantastic and yes I know very naïve. If only my manager had gone on to explain what he really meant he would have achieved a greater return for the investment of my time!

My wide eyed innocence meant I booked myself on the first event available, on the day put on my best suit, I needed to impress all of these people who were going to give me business, picked up my large pile of business cards, arrived early and waited around nervously by comparison a rabbit staring into headlights!  When things eventually got started I gave out and gathered business cards, left thinking I had been successful. It was only when back I got back to the office I sat down and looked at the cards in front of me my thoughts were – where is the business I should have got, had I done something wrong?

All a long time ago and not something I repeated being a fast learner, but oh could my manager have saved both of us time in doing so.

Whilst I accept much of networking is now done using sites like Linked in, there is still a valuable place for face to face networking and if you manage someone who as part of their role is required to network I am confident this will help.

Firstly explain what networking is, it’s about mutually helping one another and being prepared to give. This may seem obvious but don’t leave it to chance. Now ask them the following 10 questions.

Why are you taking the time out to do this? …make sure they are clear on the outcome they want.

What do you want to achieve from attending this event? …could be they are looking for buyers or suppliers make sure they know who is expected to attend.

When in the day do you have most energy? … if they are a morning person - go to breakfast events. Also remind them to book in time after to follow up on the people they have met.

What are you considering wearing? …you only get one chance to make a first impression and time costs money that you can only spend once.

How much do you really believe you can do this? …allows you to explore any fears they may have.

How will you introduce yourself to others? …encourage them to create a memorable introduction e.g. if they are an accountant it could be I am Jane Webb I help people pay less tax and make more money” it needs to stimulate interest and make people want to find out more.

What will you do to follow up immediately after the event? …it could be an email or phone call.

Is there anything that will stop you from doing this? …networking takes time and is often devalued when things get busy.

What have you learnt from the networking you have done before? …will it help you to guide them on what they need to do more or less off?

What will you do first? …for example book the right type of event or find out who else is attending that they want to meet.

Questions you may also encourage them to use after their introduction could be …

Why did you choose to come to this event today? 

What are you hoping to achieve from today?

Who else do you know who would be interested in what I do?

To maximize the return for your networking investment consider - networking is similar to speed dating, if there is a mutual interest take your time, if not move on you can only spend your time once!

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