Most professions have some basic tools they use to be successful. Networking may not be your profession, but if you are using it to grow your business, it’s certainly part of your job. Do you know your tools and how to use them?
1. Business cards
You do have them, right? I can’t tell you how many times I meet someone at an event and hear, “I don’t have any cards with me.” The reasons are myriad:
* I ran out
* I just changed jobs, and my new cards aren’t in yet
* I left them in my other jacket
And on and on. The reasons don’t matter. Cards aren’t that expensive or that big. Temporary cards at Kinkos are only a few dollars. I keep three in my wallet, just in case. They are also in my briefcase, in my car and stashed in an inside pocket of my winter coat. Unless I am tied up and stripped naked by muggers, you should never be able to catch me without one. (And if you should find me tied up in that state, I should hope asking me for my card won’t be your first question.)
There is no excuse. Networking is about meeting people, exchanging ideas and contacts and following up. Without cards, you are crippled.
2. A good elevator speech
I’m going to be writing a post soon on this topic, so I won’t go into too much detail here. But you need one. It needs to contain the following:
* Who you are
* What you do
* Who you are looking to meet
* Why we should care
And it needs to be brief and evocative. Even if you never have an opportunity to stand up and deliver your speech, going through the process of writing it will help you be more effective at talking about your business.
3. A good contact management system
Note that I said “good.” I didn’t say “fancy” or “expensive.” A paper address book works. Mobile and smart phones are good. Thousand dollar CRM systems will certainly do it. But the most important part of your system is that it be one you will use. The best system in the world that’s never updated is useless
Find one you like and that you will use. When you collect cards at events, enter the information promptly. It’s no use to know a lot of people if you can’t contact them or pass their info on to others.
I have an “Attitude” pin on the lapel of one of my jackets. It is a conversation starter, but it’s also a tangible reminder of the only thing we have total control over. The right attitude in networking will take you a long way. The wrong attitude will leave you hanging.
What’s the right attitude? Easy. Be open and willing to help others. Be willing to ask for what you need. Be bold to take advantage of opportunities that come your way. Be flexible to shift in unexpected directions.
These are the basic tools of a good networker. Acquire them. Hone them. Use them well. They will keep you in business for a very long time.