Non-Stop Networking: Maintaining a Network

Andrea Nierenberg

Networking is a process, one that can create business connections to last a lifetime. As business people, we are constantly developing, building, and cultivating relationships, and the truly smart business person develops contacts that act as his or her advocates.

A gardener tends to his or her flower garden by planting the seeds, water them, checking in on them, and allowing them time to grow. That's exactly how we can build a "bouquet" of people around us.

The following are networking tips that you can use any time of the year. Follow them, try them out, and see what happens as you progress. Here's the secret to making them work: as you continue to add a new tip, keep practicing the previous tips. Each tips works with the others. When you use them like building blocks, you'll be guaranteed to get excellent results.

1. Build relationships by immediately thanking those who have referred you. My experience has proven to me that if Tom refers me to somone, I'll call and write that person ASAP. Then I'll go back and thank Tom and let him know that I've made contact and will keep him posted.

2. Networking is about relationships and the results that happen. When you cultivate people into your life, you'll reap reward both professionally and personally. They both take time and are worth it.

3. Make lists. Keep a list of your strengths and skills that you can use to prospect. Review it monthly and update it. They might include: great follow up, sending personal notes and emails, or having a friendly attitude. Whatever they are, keep improving them.

4. Learn to ask for help. Call a business friend or associate and say, "I need some advice." Then follow up with a short thank you note.

5. Be clear and concise in your approach. Remember the KISS method - Keep It Simple Sweetheart. Don't waste people's time.

6. Reintroduce yourself to people. People will forget who you are. Therefore, let them save face; when you see them, say: "Hi, Bob. I'm Andrea Nierenberg. We met a few weeks ago."

7. Promote yourself and your busienss. Send your prospects short notes with any newsworthy information pertaining to you and your company.

8. Keep detailed notes about the people you meet. Maintain a record of the date and event who introduced you, the information you discussed, and what your follow up will be.

9. Nurture your network. Make calls and send notes even when it is not directly business-related. As you stay in touch with people, they will remember you, thus will contact you when a need arises.

10. Each week, call one person with whom you haven't spoken for  the past 90 days. Give that person an idea for his or her business, a thought, or a new promotion you might have. It's a way of staying in touch and keeping your face in front of your prospect.

11. Invite people to accompany you to events. Take a prospect to a lecture so that you can discuss it later. Let him or her enjoy an event or party with you so that the connections from these events will begin.

12. Send people articles that may interest them. By sending newspaper or magazine articles, it will let people know that you're thinking of them and their business, even if they are not clients right now.

13. Keep a log when and to whom you've written. Keep them in your computer and include notes on special events, vacations, birthdays, and correspondence.

14. Return every phone call within 24 hours. It's professional and courteous, two qualities which are being lost with all the technological advances.

15. Follow-up notes should have follow-up points. For example, thank people for something specific, introduce a new element to stimulate interest (such as an industry development), and conclude with a "next step," such as, "I'll call you again in one week."

16. Become an active and perceptive listener. Tune in, remember what someone else says, and use it in a future conversation. Since we only listen with 25% of our listening capacity, you will definitely have greater networking successes if you increase yours.

17. Learn about successful people and their networking techniques. Jack Welch, the most successful CEO of GE, has written many personal, handwritten notes. I do the same and now feel that I'm in great company.

18. Have a strategy and a plan. It might include a goal of meeting two new people this week, setting up a meeting with them, writing a short note, and then calling them one week later.

19. Devote at least 20 minutes to networking per day. Remember, it's a process. Think of all the prospecting you must do to create a contact that becomes a client. Those 20 minutes could be spent writing three notes, or making three extra phone calls - all for the sole purpose of networking and staying in touch.

20. Reconnect with at least three people a week. Every week call a client or prospect you have not been in touch with for at least three months. The reason for contacting them can range from just wanting to say "hello" to inviting them to a specific even that will interest them.

21. Offer congratulations.If you hear about someone's personal achievement, send a congratulatory note.

22. Extend a special invitation. If you participate in a chamber of commerce or other local organization that sponsors special programs, invite some of your contacts to join you as your guest.

23. Give away information. A note from time to time with some valuable information is a good way to keep in touch. Even something as simple as a newspaper clipping that will be meaningful to someone you know.

Andrea Nierenberg is president of the Nierenberg Group.
Copyright 2009. All Rights Reserved.

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