|Stock photo from Microsoft.com|
I went to a local professional networking event on Wednesday night. It was sponsored by a company called Linking Indiana. A friend of mine — someone I met through business networking, otherwise known as Leadership Hendricks County — had posted the link to the event on Facebook and LinkedIn.
When you first start a new business, a big question is: how do I find clients? You let your personal network of family and friends know about your business, you let your professional network on LinkedIn know. You probably set up a website and / or a company Facebook page. And then you wait for the phone to ring.
Well, I don’t like to wait. When I want something, I want it now. And if it isn’t happening, it becomes m y mission to make it happen. Take my weight loss last year of more than 60 pounds. I looked under a lot of rocks until I found the combination that worked. And then I just kept going until I was in range of my goal.
This year, I am applying that same linear focus on growing my law firm. Right now that means growing my professional network.
What is professional networking?
Simply stated, professional networking is getting to know people. It doesn’t sound so hard on the surface, right? But it can be extremely intimidating to walk in to a room full of people you don’t know so you can “network.” What do you say? Who do you talk to? What if they don’t care? Are bored by what you have to offer?
The Linking Indiana event last night, though, overcame those issue. The room was set up with tables of six. After checking in, you sat down randomly. Before we came, we were instructed to bring 100 business cards and to be prepared to answer these questions: who are you? what do you have to offer? what are you looking for?
Since everyone in the room was there looking for something, it was an easy conversation starter. As the evening went on, we entered the more formal part of the program. For each round, we would go around the table. Each person would answer the three questions. Then there was time for questions. After that, we would move on to the next person.
The beauty of business networking
The wonderful part about this event was not that I had an opportunity to talk about me to twenty-four other people. The most wonderful part was seeing how many people that were there were cross networking and referring. Someone would say they were looking for businesses that needed sales professionals, and someone else would say “I know X, let me send an introduction for you.”
Networking is not about making the sale to the first person you talk to. Networking is about getting to know a wide range of people, some of whom will become your clients. Others though, will introduce you to clients, or introduce you to people who will introduce you to clients.
So, business tip of the day: get out there and network. Meet a few people, share your knowledge and experience and know that the favor will be repaid.
(c) Kathy Catlin Davis