New Year Networking – 10 tips to fast track networking results in 2012

Happy New Year! I can’t believe how quickly the last year has flown – and on reflection there were lots of great opportunities that I took and of course some that I missed. So this year I want to be sure that I capitalise on the connections that I made in the last twelve months, reconnect with some past clients who didn’t need my services in 2011 and also continue to grow a list of potential clients/prospects for 2012 and beyond.

Maybe you are in the same boat, so I thought I would share 10 tips I am introducing to grow my network in 2012 and get fast results.

1. It’s time to do a networking audit – just how large is your network, how up to date is your database, how long since you have made contact with current and past clients, prospects and your peers?  With your audit, you are really wanting to identify your A class connections – the people who you will connect/reconnect with in the next 30-45 days and with a clear plan for the next 12 months. You also want to identify the B class network – those people who may not need your services immediately, but they are prospects and your contact with them, will be slightly different from your A class plan.

2.  Identify the sphere of influence in your networks – those key connectors and leaders who have the capacity to influence and network with multiple people. I often use the analogy if you want to get 100 people to attend a charity event, you don’t have to ask 100 people individually. I recommend that you invite 10-12 spheres of influence to book a table of 10 and give them lots of reasons why it will be worth the trouble. It goes without saying that you of course deliver 110% at the event and give them lots of recognition as a supporter of the event.

3. Allocate a networking budget for the year. There may be some months when your expenses are high e.g. I attend my peer group’s conference – Meetings Events Australia  And I know in April when I attend their conference in Sydney this year, there will be flights, accommodation and the conference itself – but I also know my return on attendance is 100% guaranteed based on previous results. Ideally you want to attend a least two business networking events every month. Some of these opportunities might be social or sporting opportunities – parties, sporting events, your children’s school events – so do think beyond the traditional business networks. Often some community events are free or very low cost and can give you access to many community locals. But without a budget and an intention to network, you will definitely miss opportunities to grow your business.

4.  Which network is best for you? Primarily the answer to that question is where do your clients or prospects go? Its great to network with your peers, and I do recommend that you join your industry association or network. But if you want to network with decision makers you will need to do your homework on which networks fit your criteria. e.g. potential clients attend, it is within your budget, geographically possible and the time and day of the event suit your schedule. I recommend that you don’t join any network until you have attended the events at least twice. The first time everything is different and you are sometimes out of your comfort zone. However, the second time you attend, you are more familiar with the format and will probably form a clearer decision on the benefits of being a member. In some cases, you may feel the network is not quite what you are after, you may be better to just pay the non members rate and attend meetings in an ad hoc manner. Usually though when you make a commitment to join a network, the fellow members are a lot keener to do business with you.

4. Allocate follow up time post event. One of the big mistakes many people make with face to face networking is not allocating sufficient time post event to follow up with the people that they have met. I always make notes on the backs of the business cards I exchange with the date I met the person, where I met them and something I remember about them – what i call the WOW – the thing that is unique to them. What I also do when that is not possible in a crowded room, and I know that I want to follow up with that person, is to gently fold the corner of their business card when I put it in my pocket or handbag. Then at the end of the night or the next day when I check the cards, I immediately know which person/s are expecting to be followed up.

5. Keep a monthly self networking tracker. I have been using a tracker for years and find it really helpful. Allocate one monthly tracker for each month. At the start of the month you write down at least 3 networking things you intend to do. At the  end of the month record the networking activity you did do. Often what you planned to do is not what you ended up doing and that is fine. I also record the names of the key players/spheres of influence that I met that month and my intention is to keep in touch with them on a regular basis – not just  for what they can do for me, but what I can do for them as well. I then list 3 things I plan to do the next month and finally the $$ value of business this month I can track from past networking. It’s great to be able to identify where your new business comes from and make the connections and links if it is a referral.

6. Allocate LinkedIn time every day/week – I love LinkedIn – and I am continually amazed at the improvements that are continually being made to their systems. I am close to 4,000 connections now and I do put the time in to building my connections – at least 15 minutes a day. Some days I do more but I have certainly had my return on investment from this system. I do have a complimentary ebook you can download, from my website – why I love LinkedIn and how I went from zero to 2500 in twelve months.

7. Volunteering is a fun way to network! For the second year in a row, I volunteered at a Christmas day lunch for homeless people at Labrador on the Gold Coast. A great mate of mine Susie Christie is the visionary behind the event. This year we had more than 150 volunteers for the 130 plus homeless people – so they were more than looked after with a great lunch, gifts, entertainment and hospitality. We have arranged a volunteers drink next week as a thank you and let’s see what else we can do in 2012. I compare volunteering and the trust that is built very quickly, to going to a football final and meeting people who support the same team. The bond of trust is built immediately, there are no job titles, no hierarchies, everyone is equal, and everyone is there to support a cause and give freely of their time.

8. Speed of response  – whether it’s returning phone calls, responding to emails, sending proposals, quotes etc. I believe the early bird really does catch the worm these days. We are in a wired world and expectations for quick responses are there – even if they are not verbalised. Often, if a query comes in over the phone – whether its a local, national or international query, I will often pick the phone and call them directly. More often than not you get a decision on the spot and the return email ends up being a confirmation of a booking. I have also found that people are online at all hours of the day, so if I do get a query on the weekend or after hours and I happen to be online, I will often email my phone number and say they are welcome to phone between a certain time frame if they wish. Not everyone takes up the offer, but the feedback is they do appreciate the opportunity.

9. Flexibility – who knows where our marketplace will end up in 2012? There is much financial uncertainty globally and it is inevitable that there will be some flow on to Australia. Not to mention potential natural disasters – hopefully we won’t have anymore of those in Australia – but no doubt this community or other communities throughout Australia will be negatively affected at some time in 2012. For the last couple of years (since the global financial crisis actually) when someone asks me, “what is your fee?” I respond with, well that depends what you are after, what your budget is and what are you wanting to achieve? I then try to flexibly create a program for them that meets their criteria, within their budget and time frame. And the reality is that sometimes I refer the work to others and sometimes I waive my fee totally and come up with other potential income options for the client. At the end of the day, we are problem solvers. Someone needs a removalist, a new car, a doctor, a real estate agent, a pest exterminator, a networking speaker – that is their problem. And we provide the solution – ideally within their anticipated budget, time frame and expectations.

And if we do a great job and exceed their expecations, then they are more than likely to refer us to their network. I call this the trilogy of trust, the trust that one person has in another, that is passed on to the third party. It really is the life time value of the client.

10. Pick up the phone! Email, the internet and social media are brilliant time savers. But too many people hide behind email or use it as their only marketing tool. They send out proposals and wait, and wait and wait. As a baby boomer, I have been in the workforce for 40 years, I was working in the sales and business development areas long before the advent of email. And much as I love email, it can make you a lazy sales person or staff member. Pick up the phone – have a conversation with a live person who is interested in your product or service. They won’t bite and you will have an opportunity to answer any queries that they have, clarify your offer, find out if you have been shortlisted for the job and when they are actually going to be making a decision.

My wish for you in 2012 is that you have more fun with your networking, your life and your friends. This current market may well be the “new normal” and one thing I know for sure is that networking will open any door in the world for you.  Your reputation is everything and it can be destroyed in a blink. But I believe if we live and work in integrity and work in an honest, fair and ethical manner we will attract like minded peers and clients to build better communities and strong alliances that can last a lifetime. Happy 2012.

2 Responses to “New Year Networking – 10 tips to fast track networking results in 2012”

  1. Jennifer Says:

    Hi Robyn

    Happy New Year! Thank you for always providing me with just what I need to read. It is time for me to send a message to my community outlining the purpose of Women in Business WA and to gather the eclectic mix that makes our group magical.

    All the best for 2012.

  2. Rosemary Says:

    Some very worthwhile advice shared in this article – and I will definitely take it on board. Wishing all networkers great results from their efforts.

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