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Networking Tips

EventSomeone recently asked if I am a morning person or a night owl and I had to think about it. I told her I’m neither because I love to sleep. Early to bed late to rise makes this girl happy with smiles. Well, that kind of rhymes. Anyway, my BNI group in Excelsior, MN met this morning at 7am and I had to get up extra early because of snow. I admit this was tough when I first joined but now I find myself anxious to get there with enough time to mingle and network before the meeting. And I feel a little shortchanged if I don’t get to chit chat for a bit afterwards too.

Some people aren’t fans of BNI for whatever reason, and those reasons are perfectly valid for them. I love having a work family, it’s one thing I’ve missed since leaving my corporate job. It’s also really done wonders for my business, having paid for itself from guest visits before I even joined. We’re not all business all the time. I’ve made some great friends as well as business contacts.

Networking itself can be tricky for some people. You can probably find lots of guidance out there on how it should be done with best practices, etc. Here are a couple tips that have never failed me:

  1. You can’t go wrong approaching someone who is standing alone.
  2. When approaching a group, check their feet. If they are pointed directly at each other or into the group, it is a closed group and you can pass that one by. If one or both of their feet are pointed outward, you can approach.
  3. Just be yourself. Just go up and ask them how it’s going.  If you’re a bit of an introvert or have a hard time talking about yourself, ask questions about them. It’s nice to ask about them personally before asking about their business.
  4. Keep in mind that the goal of networking is to get leads, not close sales. Save your business card for those you know are interested.

And of course, find the networking outlets that are a right fit for you and your goals. Some groups may be fun but don’t represent your target market. Lately I’m finding that I have better success when networking at functions that I’ve paid at least $30 for. They may include a meal or a guest speaker, and it’s been worth it for that content, let alone the networking. It’s another one of those things that you may need to experiment with. As always, I welcome your feedback and love to hear what works for you.