The ability to network is one of the most crucial skills any entrepreneur can have. Many people go to networking events, but very few know how to network effectively. Networking is more than just getting out and meeting people. Networking is a structured plan to get to know people who will do business with you or introduce you to those who will.
The Clarksville Networking Group, (CNG) is a group of business professionals that meet the 1st & 3rd Tuesdays of every month to conduct a official meeting in which we discuss ways to improve your business, the latest trends in business, work on our marketing and presentation skills and build business relationships that lead to referrals.
Since November of 2003 Clarksville Networking Group has been a part of the business scene in Clarksville TN.
The Clarksville Networking Group uses the idea of building business through Qualified Referrals.
Qualified referrals come from one-on-one collaboration with others in your network. The members who give the referrals are the ones who have taken the time necessary to build a solid relationship with people they know they can count on; the referral giver knows they are putting their own reputation on the line when they say, “You can trust (insert your company______), they are someone I’ve done business with (or highly recommend).” The best referrals often come from people referring you to others in their network. They like you and trust you and feel comfortable that you will follow-up immediately.
Another aspect of the Clarksville Networking Group is “The open Rolodex”. Imagine yourself walking into someone’s office and looking through their entire Rolodex. This is what you get when you become a member of CNG. The open Rolodex is the same concept behind LinkedIn.com, Facebook.com and other Social Networking Sites. You get to see “who knows who”.
We have an EXCLUSIVE membership policy, and each member is the only representative of their respected profession. When you are a member of this group NO OTHER member competes with you.
The trick with networking is to become proactive. This means taking control of the situation instead of just reacting to it. Networking requires going beyond your comfort zone and challenging yourself. Try these tips:
- Set a goal to meet five or more new people at each event. Whenever you attend a group, whether a party, a mixer or an industry luncheon, make a point of heading straight for people you don’t know. Greet the newcomers (they will love you for it!). If you don’t make this goal a habit, you’ll naturally gravitate toward the same old acquaintances.
- Try one or two new groups per month. You can attend almost any organization’s meetings a few times before you must join. This is another way to stretch yourself and make a new set of contacts. Determine what business organizations and activities you would best fit into. It may be the chamber of commerce, the arts council, a museum society, a civic organization, a baseball league, a computer club or the PTA. Attend every function you can that synergizes your goals and customer/prospect interaction.
- Carry your business cards with you everywhere. After all, you never know when you might meet a key contact, and if you don’t have your cards with you, you lose out. Take your cards to church, the gym, parties, the grocery store–even on walks with the dog.
- Don’t make a beeline for your seat. Frequently, you’ll see people at networking groups sitting at the dinner table staring into space–half an hour before the meal is due to start. Why are they sitting alone? Take full advantage of the valuable networking time before you have to sit down. Once the meeting starts, you won’t be able to mingle.
- Don’t sit by people you know. Mealtime is a prime time for meeting new people. You may be in that seat for several hours, so don’t limit your opportunities by sitting with your friends. This is a wonderful chance to get to know new people on either side of you. Sure, it’s more comfortable to hobnob with familiar faces. But remember, you are spending precious time and money to attend this event. Get your money’s worth; you can talk to your friends some other time.
- Get active. People remember and do business with leaders. Don’t just warm a chair–get involved and join a committee or become a board member. If you don’t have time, volunteer to help with hospitality at the door or checking people in. This gives you a reason to talk to others, gets you involved in the inner workings of the group, and provides more visibility.
- Be friendly and approachable. Pretend you are hosting the event. Make people feel welcome. Find out what brought them there, and see if there’s any way you can help them. Introduce them to others, make business suggestions or give them a referral. Not only will you probably make a friend, but putting others at ease eliminates self-consciousness. A side benefit: What goes around comes around. If you make the effort to help others, you’ll soon find people helping you.
- Set a goal for what you expect from each meeting. Your goals can vary from meeting to meeting. Some examples might be: learning from the speaker’s topic, discovering industry trends, looking for new prospects or connecting with peers. If you work out of your home, you may find your purpose is simply to get out and talk to people face to face. Focusing your mind on your goal before you even walk into the event keeps you on target.
- Be willing to give to receive. Networking is a two-way street. Don’t expect new contacts to shower you with referrals and business unless you are equally generous. Follow up on your contacts; keep in touch; always share information or leads that might benefit them. You’ll be paid back tenfold for your thoughtfulness.