"Human relationships always help us to carry on because they always presuppose further developments, a future - and also because we live as if our only task was precisely to have relationships with other people."
--- Albert Camus
We all value relationships, whether personal or business, and we all expect the give and take that comes with those relationships. In business, one of the best ways to begin and develop relationships is through networking.
Networking opportunities are designed for establishing and building relationships and networking events are a means for business people to make connections with others, whether it is a potential new client or a strategic business alliance.
"When I got my first television set, I stopped caring so much about having close relationships."
--- Andy Warhol
There are many forms of networking and much has been written about how to network, but we will condense networking to five basic tips.
The first is to create what is known as an "elevator speech." This is a 30 second succinct description of you and your company. The best approach is to develop this into a description of the problem that your company can solve. Be creative and make it memorable. Write it down and practice it until you know it by heart. Make it so good that the person hearing it will know that your company is head and shoulders above the competition.
"An attitude of gratitude creates blessings.. Help yourself by helping others. You have the most powerful weapons on earth...love and prayer."
--- John Templeton
Secondly, ask others what you can do to help them. When you give to others, they are more apt to give back to you. You may not land a big contract or even sell your products or services, but these things may not be too far down the road if you are able to help your prospect with a need outside of your particular business.
"The fact is the human race is not only slow about borrowing valuable ideas--it sometimes persists in not borrowing them at all."
--- Mark Twain
Thirdly, provide valuable information on a regular basis for free. Create a monthly newsletter to distribute in your network that is helpful. Don't be afraid to give away advice. You will establish credibility in your field and your solutions and helpful advice will be shared with others who will one day remember you.
"We can believe that we know where the world should go. But unless we're in touch with our customers, our model of the world can diverge from reality. There's no substitute for innovation, of course, but innovation is no substitute for being in touch, either."
--- Steve Ballmer
Fourthly, you need to identify the people that you want to make contact with and make every effort to build relationships. This is a time-consuming approach, but well worth the effort.
Find out about their social circles, where they eat, where they play golf, etc. Don't stalk them, but be where they are. Remember, people buy from people that they know, trust and like.
"To write it, it took three months; to conceive it three minutes; to collect the data in it - all my life."
--- F. Scott Fitzgerald
Finally, you have to effectively collect and manage data. All of the networking in the world will not benefit your business if you have no way to follow up with prospects. Make notes on the back of a business card and then transfer those notes into a data base.
Then, find a reason to stay in touch with your prospects. Clip articles from magazines and newspapers that you think will interest the prospect. Remember birthdays if it was mentioned or favorite coffees. This is not to advocate cheap flattery. You and your prospect will spot that right away. No, this is about finding ways to help your prospect and to stay in touch with them. If you don't do it, your competition will.
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Seen in a pet shop:
In a Jewelry Store:
"We buy old boyfriends jewelry!"
On the front of a catholic elementary school:
"Jesus is coming! No bingo Sunday."
Have you seen any funny signs lately? Why not share them with the world? Send your comments, suggestions, and hysterical observations to: firstname.lastname@example.org.