When I was in the Navy, two things accompanied me on every move. In fact, we have been known to pay excess shipping costs just so I could move them from duty station to duty station. We never went anywhere without my books and my music.
These things are still extremely important to me, but two things have replaced them as my most prized possessions. My Rolodex and my laptop.
I don't care what business you are in, you can't succeed without people. Whether it's your clients, associates, competitors, employees - people are the lifeblood of your business.
You've heard me talk about the value of building your network in previous posts. It should be your prized possession - one that is cultivated and nurtured carefully. Your network will provide you with an ongoing supply of people to do business with, ask advice from, collaborate with, mastermind with, and seek assistance from to help your business grow and prosper. My Rolodex contains all the business cards I've collected and haven't yet entered into my contact management program. And with my laptop I can connect with almost anyone I know, anytime, anywhere.
Networking does not mean attending every event and passing out your business card to every warm body in the room. It does not mean joining every social networking site you can find, posting your information, and waiting for clients and business partners to come calling.
If you really want to be an effective networker, you must participate. When attending networking events, when you give someone your business card use this tip I learned from one of my mentors. Write on the back of it these 4 letters - HCIH. HCIH - How Can I Help. Instead of introducing yourself and launching into a lengthy explanation of what you do, give a brief explanation. Then ask them about their business. And then ask how you can help. For example, when I'm prospecting for new site selection clients, I introduce myself and mention that I work for HelmsBriscoe, the largest site selection company in the world. Then I ask what they do. After listening I ask, if they haven't already mentioned it, whether they do any sort of group travel or offsite meetings that require blocks of hotel rooms. If they say yes, instead of immediately telling them why they should use my services, I ask them what the hardest thing is about planning those events or what types of problems they have encountered in the past. When they tell me, I let them know that I may be able to help them with that and promise to send them some information that may be helpful. I keep several things such as meeting planner checklists, and ways to save money on meetings always updated so I have the information ready. Then as soon as I get home, I email or mail them the pertinent information. I have now established two things with them - my value and my commitment to helping them succeed.
When using the various social networking sites, do be a "lurker." Share your knowledge by posting articles and advice for others to share. The best way to show people how much you can help is by demonstrating your willingness and ability to do so.
You also can't ignore your contact list until you need something from them. Check in with everyone on the list periodically. Ask how they are doing. Ask how you can help. Treat them to lunch or coffee. Send them a card or a short note or an article you read that might interest them. Show them you care. People like working with people they know and trust. What better way to build that trust than to show them that you care about their success.
If, unlike me, you are not technology challenged, there are lots of contact management programs available to help you keep up with your networking. I use ACT! not because I know it's the best. I use it simply because I learned to use it years ago and I'm comfortable with it. There may be better ones available and I'll bet someone in my network knows the answer to that. If you want a recommendation, let me know and I'll ask around!