net·work·ing – [net-wur-king] noun – a supportive system of sharing information and services among individuals and groups having a common interest: Working mothers in a community use networking to help themselves manage their businesses successfully.
Networking takes time and effort but if you do it right it can really help you grow your business.
Be open to meet a variety of people. Every person you meet every day is a potential customer or a potential customer for someone else. Be excited when you meet them as you never know who they are connected to.
Always have your business cards handy. I once read that men always have their business cards available within ten seconds to give to someone else. Most of the time women search through their purse to find one. Make sure you can access your cards quickly. It looks much more professional and you will be seen as organized and on top of things.
If someone buys one of your products or uses your service buy one of their products or use their service. I don’t know how many times I’ve supported someone else’s business and they fail to do the same for me. That’s okay because I like to help others and want them to be successful… but they probably don’t understand the power of networking. If you can’t use a product or service find someone that can. The person will appreciate your referral and will come to you again when they need your products.
Join networking groups. Groups like BNI and Chambers are a time commitment but you can be very successful. As a busy Mom you might want to start with Moms groups, small networking groups, a Meetup.com group in your area, and of course Vend Raleigh. Moms are great at networking and want to help other Moms. Plus, we know so many people. Work smart and be efficient with your time. Busy Moms have so much going on that it is best to designate a day of the week or maybe a couple of hours each week for networking. Put the time you’ve designated on your calendar.
Don’t expect to get a business referral from someone after the first time you meet them. Many people make this mistake. It takes time to build a business relationship and you both have to learn more about each other, your businesses and build trust before you start getting/giving referrals.
Don’t hound someone for their contacts. Do you enjoy getting repeated sales calls? Don’t make that mistake with someone you want to network with. Keep in touch but wait for the referrals to come to you….they will.
Don’t neglect to thank someone for their business or referral. What a slap in the face if someone spent their time helping you get a contact and they never hear from you. Don’t send an email….Write a thank you note – you’ll stand out and probably get repeat business or contacts.
Don’t feel that you have to network with everyone. Sometimes we just don’t “click” with everyone. That is okay. Use your intuition when building relationships. But be open and keep the person in mind as you may be able to send them business in the future. Don’t burn bridges…things can change. Use your time wisely and work with those that you connect to.
Janne LoFaro has had a successful business as a Director with the Shaklee Corporation for 16 years and recently became a Miche Distributor. She was a member of Business Networking International (BNI), a member of the BNI leadership team, and developed and implemented a New Member Orientation Program for BNI that has been used in their Northern Virginia division. This program helps new members get acclimated and get the most out of networking. She homeschools her daughter and lives in Holly Springs.