A Notable Networker must have and use the right tools to network skillfully. All professionals need the tools of their trade to conduct business. A painter needs a brush, a teacher needs a blackboard, and an administrative professional needs a computer. To achieve success, networkers need their own tools as well. Good networkers’ tools include:
name tags to identify themselves to others,
card holders to carry their business cards, and most important,
card files to carry other people’s business cards.
It has been said that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce coined the term “networking.” Over the years, I’ve gone to many Chamber of Commerce business mixers. Unfortunately, too many of them seem to practice a passive form of the technique. However, depending on the chamber, some mixers can be an outstanding way to meet many new people. At Chamber of Commerce mixers, people from a variety of businesses get together with the idea of meeting one another.
At these meetings, I often encounter people who don’t wear a name tag. Of those who do, many neglect to put their company name or profession on the badge. I can’t imagine anyone going to a business meeting and not telling everyone what business he or she is in! You’ve got to let people know who you are and what business you’re in if you want to reap the full rewards of networking.
I also run into people who don’t have any business cards with them. Business cards are one of the most inexpensive forms of advertising available and a crucial tool for networking. They should be well designed and present a professional image. Most important, you need to have them in your possession! A large stack of cards sitting in the desk drawer at your office doesn’t help much at a business mixer. Always carry a small card case full of business cards with you and keep a large box of business cards in the glove compartment or trunk of your car for restocking your card case on the spot. Use the backs of any cards you get from others to make notes that will jog your memory about each individual or about the conversation you had.
In addition, you should go a step further and carry a vinyl or leather card-carrying case or book for the cards of the people you network with. These are people in your own personal network of contacts, people who presumably are storing your cards and referring you as well. Always keep three or four of their cards so you can hand one to anyone interested in their services.
One way to enhance your networking efforts is to use computer software. When you get back to your office, you can enter the new names and information you’ve acquired into a contact management program to help you organize your information and enable you to easily handle follow-up activities. In addition to these, several general database programs, such as Relate2Profit, provide contact management capabilities. You can log in new information and contacts, get reports of your progress, and reminders. If you’re not already using a program such as this, rest assured that the learning time is a couple of hours or less.
Do you have a favorite networking tool or a particular software program that you’ve found to be especially useful in enhancing your networking efforts? If so, please write about it in the comment forum below–I’m always interested in hearing about new tools for increasing networking effectiveness. Thanks!