To be effective at networking you must be perceived as resource. People call me for a number of different reason, some of which are related to my business and some are not. But that’s okay. I want people to contact me and interact with me as often as they want because that means they are thinking about me. When they call me with a need or desire that means I get “first crack” at the opportunity if it is within my skill set. If it is not, I get to recommend someone I know, which means I a “get credit” for the referral and strengthen another part of my network. Either way it is a win-win for me.
Have you ever been asked this question: What is your best skill? I have found that one of my best skills is listening. This does not mean simply being quiet. It means actively trying to understand what the other person is saying and identifying their need. When actively listening to someone in a business environment you want to first see if any of your products or services fit their need. If not you should be prepared to make an accurate and meaningful referral or recommendation.
In order to be effective at this you must understand both the need and potential solution well enough to make a good match. That means you have actively listened to your referral partner and you understand their position in the marketplace. If you give offhanded “lame” referrals you will not be perceived as a resource. On the other hand if you are good at making accurate matches, you become a valuable “go-to” person.
For instance if you network as much as I do you probably know six insurance agents or financial planners. Take the time to understand who is a perfect fit for young families and who might be a better fit for a someone making a retirement plan. Also understand who knows about health care and who specializes in auto insurance. Likely all six cross over in some way but listen to the nuance when they speak. Understand who they are a people so you can make a meaningful referral. It maybe their product offering, but it may also be their personality. People will thank you for years afterwards when you do it well.
It takes time and effort to be good at it, but it begins by actively listening. Alternatively be sure you take the time to let people know what you do best and how they can refer you. For example I produce web video for business. If someone wants to know how they can engage their web visitors more effectively using video I can help. I specialize in book video trailers for authors and video for subject matter experts who have a lot of information they want to share. I do not videotape weddings or other social events.
Get good at presenting yourself and actively listening to others and you will get your share of business in return. Are you listening? Take the time to leave a message here and tell us what you do.