“Go forth and network” may be one of the most hackneyed pieces of advice you can hear in the business world. Whatever it is you seek—a prospect, a client, a promotion, a new career—networking is usually offered as the answer. But according to Vickie Milazzo, successful businesswoman and author of “Wicked Success Is Inside Every Woman,” many people are not networking the right way.
Here are five more tips from Milazzo on how to network most effectively:
6. Get organized. You’ve probably returned from a networking event having met a bunch of new people but lost track of how to cultivate those relationships. “When you meet someone new, take note (electronically) of what the person looked like, what you discussed, and one or two things you found unique about that person. That way the next time you speak with him or if you want to reach out after the event, you can mention something that will personally interest him, allowing you to make a stronger, more lasting connection,” said Milazzo.
7. Manage the follow up. Rubbing elbows at one or two events with a new contact does not automatically create a beneficial relationship. How you follow up with that contact is just as important as how you make your first impression. “When you do check in with a new contact, find a way to create value,” recommended Milazzo. “Send her an article that you think might interest her or connect her with someone you know who might be a potential new customer for her or who might be able to help her with her business. Tell her you recently put a piece of her advice to work, and thank her for her valuable insight on the matter. When you do these things, you create reasons to stay in touch and that’s a great way to keep the relationship growing.”
8. Don’t wait until you need something to follow up. Remember, the new relationships you’re forging aren’t all about you trying to get something from your contacts. Be careful that you’re not always asking for this or that. “Show how you can benefit the person as well,” suggested Milazzo. “Simply waiting until you need something to reach out to the person will make him feel like you’re taking advantage of him.”
9. Network outside social media. While networking through social media is an important way to make a connection, it’s not the only way to maintain it. You can’t and shouldn’t depend on multiple LinkedIn connections and Facebook friends to do the trick. “Simply having an online connection with a huge group of people is not going to drive that much action for you,” noted Milazzo. “You have to connect with social-media connections offline in order to really form meaningful relationships with them.”
10. Give as much as you get. Successful networking is a two-way street. Most of us start by asking for help and advice, but as we become more knowledgeable and successful, we gain the means to help others. Remember, success isn’t a monopoly: The more creative, intelligent and effective your colleagues become, the more successful your entire industry will be. Whenever possible, give younger (or at least more inexperienced) people a piece of advice or a leg up.
“Ultimately, taking ‘not’-working to networking isn’t difficult—it simply requires you to be smart about who you’re spending your time with. Always engage in powerful and meaningful networking, not just a pocketful of business cards and a glass of cheap white zinfandel. And never stop expecting high performance from your network: If it’s not productive move on!” Milazzo said.
Sign up for The Lead and get a new tip in your inbox every day! More tips: