CONNECTING. COMMUNICATING. FORGING AND FOSTERING RELATIONSHIPS AND EXCHANGING IDEAS.
Call it whatever you like, but mingling and chatting with colleagues, peers and potential clients or customers in a relaxed setting is crucial to almost every kind of business. You know this. But do you know the best, most effective ways to do it? The actions and attitudes that reap real results and show in an improved bottom line? Liz Sutton of Alabama World Travel and Sutton & Associates does. Sutton became passionate about the benefits of networking done right after seeing them work for her. “Stacia Robinson did a seminar on networking for the Chamber,” Sutton said. “She was so willing to share her tips on how to do it successfully. I found her ideas easy to follow, and they helped me become more successful. Now, I’m always eager to share my experience with others.”
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF NETWORKING?
- IT HELPS YOU CONNECT WITH OTHERS.
- IT HELPS YOU BUILD YOUR GROUP OF CONTACTS.
- IT’S MUCH EASIER THAN “COLD-CALLING.”
BEST PLACES TO NETWORK: RSVP “YES”
• Chamber events are fabulous. Many are set up for the primary purpose of making it easy to connect with others like 60-minute Coffees and Business After Hours.
• Association meetings.
• At church, your children’s school, your neighborhood.
• Always ask how you can help the other person. Who are their best customers? What kind of business are they seeking? Is there anyone they are trying to meet in order to be more successful? In other words, “How can I help you?”
• Introduce yourself first. Reach out and shake their hand. Energy is exchanged when you shake hands.
• Have fun. Networking is and should be fun and enjoyable. Smile! Make sure your body language is positive.
• Approach people that are standing alone or in threes.
• Always, always have business cards.
• Always carry a portfolio with pen and paper. You never know when you will need to make notes.
• When someone joins your circle, introduce yourself to them and then them to the others. Welcome them into the conversation by sharing “We were just discussing ...”
• Don’t stand around with your “friends” and colleagues. Spread out to meet people.
• Don’t check your email, take phone calls or check your phone while talking.
• Don’t forget to wear your nametag on the “right” side. It makes it easier to read when you shake hands.
NOT INTO CROWDS?
WHAT IF NETWORKING ISN’T YOUR THING:
Some advice for people who are naturally shy or introverted and are therefore hesitant or uncomfortable in “networking” situations:
Practice in front of the mirror. Extend your hand out and introduce yourself. I actually practiced for months.
Have a few key questions you can ask the people you meet. For example: “Tell me about you.” “Describe your ideal customer.” “What’s your most recent success?” and “What project(s) are you working on now?”
PATIENCE PAYS OFF
“I was a volunteer for the Chamber and met a CEO that I had been trying to meet for years. After that meeting about Chamber business, he asked me about my business. I followed up with a handwritten ‘thank you’ note. I continued to call on him for the Chamber and brought business ideas to the table for his business. After several years, he hired our company for a big project, and we have been working with them for several years now. I learned the value of ‘volunteering to be visible.’ Sometimes you have to give a lot before you receive. But the more I help others, the more it comes back to me.” - Liz Sutton
OUR EXPERT: Liz Sutton owns Alabama World Travel and Sutton & Associates, a second-generation family owned business celebrating 46 years in Montgomery. Alabama World Travel is part of the prestigious Virtuoso network that offers exclusive amenities and benefits to travelers that they cannot receive on their own. Sutton & Associates is a division of AWT that partners with sales organizations to create company top-performer award trips (incentive trips) for their employees and/or customers.