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Successful Networking is a State of Mind

"Networking is a state of mind. You must always keep in mind those people to whom you can refer others. In order to receive the benefits of networking, you must first give." This philosophy of networking began my chapter, "Networking: Nuisance or Necessity?" in The Sales Coach: Selling Tips from the Pros. Networking is my passion, my pleasure, and my best sales tool!

Whether we write or speak or work at home or work in corporate America, we are all salespeople. How successful we are depends on our attitude toward others and our willingness to help others better themselves. Brian Tracy, well-known speaker and author, has said: "Your success is largely due to the number of people who know you favorably." Proactive networking is an excellent way to positively impress others. When we create that good impression, when others know us as a resource, they are more likely to refer their contacts and clients to us.

1985 marked the year I risked it all and launched Positive Connections® (formerly The Haggerty Group), my speaking and consulting business. My first two clients were a company I had worked with while at AT&T and one of the AT&T Sales Divisions. During my tenure at AT&T, I had carefully nurtured the relationships with these two groups. Nurturing means carefully tending, gently handling, and valuing the relationship. Valued relationships are to be cherished and cultivated so that they grow strong and fruitful. Scripture teaches, "For if you give, you will get! Your gift will return to you in full and overflowing measure, pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, and running over. Whatever measure you use to give - large or small - will be used to measure what is given back to you."

Networking is also a process that can be learned and followed assiduously. There are four basic steps: Principal, Process, Place, and Practice. The Principal has been stated previously. The next step is the Process.

Process: Determine the answers to the following questions:

  • Why am I networking?
  • Who will I be networking with?
  • What am I able to give to the process?
  • What do I hope to gain?
  • When will I network?

Next set goals for networking. Decide on a particular time of day or the week when you will proactively network. Set up a system for tracking the contacts you make, whether the old standard, the Rolodex∆, or one of the new computer-based systems such as Act!∆ or Goldmine∆ or Daytimer Organizer∆. Prepare the tools of networking - business cards, thank you notes, brochures. Make sure that your materials are professional and reflect you. Remember that we want to make Positive Connections®!

Place: Where can we network? The possibilities are endless!

  • Chambers of Commerce
  • Writers' Conferences
  • Social Clubs and Churches
  • Networking Groups
  • Professional Associations
  • PTAs
  • Charitable Organizations

In other words, networking can happen any time in any place with anyone! A few months ago, I was standing in the lobby of a hotel in Charleston waiting for the airport shuttle to arrive. Gazing around the lobby, I spied a woman lifting a beautiful silver and royal blue necklace from a shopping bag and looking at it admiringly. Those are my favorite colors and I exclaimed to her, "My,, what a pretty necklace!" Five little words! We began one of those hotel lobby conversations we sometimes have with people whom we will never see again - she asked me if I was going to the airport and,, if so, would I like to share the car she had coming? I gratefully accepted her invitation.

As we were loading our luggage into the car, she chirped to me, "And what do you do?" My spirits plummeted. I was tired from a long trip, and I didn't want to go into sales mode, so I tried to be brief. "I'm a professional speaker, but I wasn't here speaking. I was helping a friend." "Oh, really?" she exclaimed delightedly. "I come to these conferences looking for speakers for my company!" My inner voice sighed, "Why now? I'm so tired. I don't want to do this!" We got into the car and as we glided off to the airport, she queried, "What do you speak about?" In a totally negative state of mind, I handed her my business card and mumbled that my speeches were listed on the back. She read down the list of talks and asked, "Right Person, Right Job - what's that all about?" At that point I gave up and realized I was getting into the conversation whether I wanted to or not. I explained that many of my consulting clients had been burned in the hiring/firing process, that I had found some objective assessments to use in the process, and that the speech taught a better methodology for hiring employees. "Really!" she excitedly interrupted. "I have to hire someone next week and I can't afford to make a mistake! Please overnight me the marketing materials for these assessments."

When I got home, I sent her the materials - she liked them and purchased the software and the assessments. Next she hired me to come out and spend two days with her department to facilitate team building in the group. The day I returned from that engagement, I received a call from another group in the same company asking when I could come back and do the same for them! Five little words - brought me almost two-thirds of my revenues for the past year - brought me a new friend and a positive relationship - and I wasn't even trying!

Practice: To be successful at networking, practice is critical. First impressions are important, so keep in mind that you only have one opportunity to make a positive first impression. There are several guidelines to follow that help make the practice perfect!

  • Keep business cards with you at all times, along with a pen for jotting down notes on the cards you receive to help you remember where and why you have them.
  • Have a "TMAY" - "Tell Me About Yourself." Practice a short phrase that will enable you to respond professionally and in a manner that will attract interest and lead you into a meaningful conversation.
  • Remember the 3-Foot Rule - anyone within three feet (about the length of a handshake) is a prospect and possible contact for you.
  • Always smile at people - it's contagious!
  • Have fun - you never know when you'll meet a "new best friend!"

Networking is a state of mind - the principal, process, place, and practice will enable you to "impress people favorably!"

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Plymouth, MA 02360
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