I’ve learned that sometimes, when things come naturally to you, it’s not always the same for others.  I learned this most poignantly with networking.  Meeting new people and helping to facilitate connections is a favorite activity of mine.  Because of this skill, I was asked to craft a list of tips for some friends who were looking for pointers, so I thought I’d share, just in case any of it applies to your circumstances:

-Networking starts with your current contacts.  It doesn’t necessarily mean actively pursing making new relationships.

-Even if you ‘don’t need to network’, you do.  You never know when you’ll need someone to help connect you (not always professionally) and it’s improper to ask people for help when you’ve not spoken to someone in ages, and now are doing so simply to ask for something.  Cultivate and maintain your relationships.

-Think of networking as a puzzle you’re piecing together. What’s their need and how can you use your resources to fill that gap?

-Don’t throw your cards around.  Give them after engaging in a conversation.  To ask someone for their card first is more tactful.

-Don’t sell to the room, sell to their rolodexes.

-Ask permission to follow up if there’s a potential for a sale.

-Set expectations by saying how and when you’ll contact them (and then do it).

-Ask questions that are deeper than ‘what do you do?’

-Create a ‘reconnect’ file in your calendar on monthly rotation of a list of people you’ve met and with whom you want to keep in touch.

-For contacts that have more immediate, obvious value (networking partners) create individual monthly reconnect files to spark you to reach out to them in the future.  No need to reach out every month, but seeing their name (relevancy) is half the battle.  Reach out when you have an interesting article to share, want to touch base, etc.

-Let people know you’ll stay in touch every month or so, then do it!

-Remember birthdays!

-If they have an important meeting or proposal, remember and contact them to wish luck and ask how they did.

-Be specific when describing your ideal target. “Anybody” means nobody.

-Ask them what they need, then try to provide it by connecting them with someone you know and trust.

-Give first without expectation of something in return.

-Why are you different/memorable/great? If you don’t know, they won’t either.

-Not all networking events/groups are created equal.  Focus your time and energy when there’s value and it’s a good fit for you.

-Utilize LinkedIn!! Link to new and old contacts, go through their contacts, and ask for introductions.

-Offer to make introductions for people.

-Create a ‘referral introductions’ sheet to help facilitate other connections and referrals.

-Remember that when walking into a networking event, everyone is there to meet new people.  Going alone and walking up to strangers is the point, and everyone has some apprehension.

-Why should they care about you? Do you know how to describe yourself/business in one sentence that demonstrates some value to the listener, not couched in industry speak?  Or, can you explain it so that they might be interested in continuing the conversation? Ex: I help people to ________.

-Listen more than you talk! People love to talk about themselves!

-Have other interests you can talk about besides business and find common ground.

-Connect synergistic people (both targeting the same audience).

-DO WHAT YOU SAY YOU’LL DO!!

-Follow up within 24 hours.

-Send thank you’s!

-Find the fun in it.

When in doubt, revert back to a saying of my father’s:

“There’s not six degrees of separation, there’s two.  You just have to think hard enough.”