Make Your Network Work

 Make Your Network Work

By Patti DeNucci

“Success in business [equals] network, network, network, network…” Thus said a tweet by a business development coach with a nice-sized following. My immediate reaction? “Not so fast.”

After more than 25 years building my business through networking, observing what worked and what didn’t (for myself and for my clients) and doing research for my book, I came to a somewhat counterintuitive conclusion.

Attracting long-term success in business isn’t about networking more. It’s about networking intentionally – connecting and building relationships with greater purpose, polish and productivity.

This comes as a relief to many over-scheduled businesswomen. Maybe you’re one of them. These 10 secrets can help you become more intentional – and successful – as you network and build business relationships that will positively impact your career and business.

Know the purpose. Authenticity, clarity and purpose are key in today’s networking world. It’s helpful to learn what lights you up, and what you really want. People are naturally drawn to those who have this kind of clarity.

Set intentions. Before you set foot in the door, whether it’s to meet someone for coffee or to attend a business gathering, set a few intentions. Why are you going? What do you want to accomplish, learn or experience? What challenges are you trying to solve? Setting intentions tunes your intuitive radar and helps you attract the results you want. As Louis Pasteur noted, “Chance favors the prepared mind.”

Develop networking event criteria. So many events, so little time. How to choose which to attend? Here’s a list of criteria that can be adapted to different needs and preferences:

The speaker or program must be of interest.
The date/time/location must work with my schedule.
The host organization must be well respected.
Those who attend must be people I’d want to meet and associate with.

Show up prepared. If you’re going to invest time and money to attend a business gathering, make sure you’re suitably prepared. Dress professionally. Bring your business cards or resume – and your best smile and self-introduction. Learn how to give a proper handshake. No cupped hands, limp knuckles, or bone-crushing grips! (All three are far more common that you think.)

Identify and focus on 20 Percenters. Ever heard of the 80:20 Rule (also known as the Pareto Principle)? The theory states that there is typically “a vital few and a trivial many.” Applied to networking or your database, 20 percent of the people you meet (or those you already know) will likely produce 80 percent of the positive results in your world. So who are your 20 Percenters? Identify them, focus on them, and find more of them.

Stay in touch. Once you identify your 20 Percenters, it’s important to stay in touch. There are so many ways to do this: email, a message or comment on social media (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and other networks), a quick phone chat, and even a handwritten note, which always makes a special impression.

Be patient. You meet someone at a networking event and hit it off. You want to get know the person better. The typical follow up might be a brief email and an invitation to coffee or lunch. But let’s face it – schedules can be pretty busy. You may not have success with this first invitation. That’s OK – be patient. Networking is a courtship process that requires patience, finesse and timing. Try again, and if the connection is meant to be you will eventually get on each other’s calendars. If not, don’t take it personally.

Patti DeNucci is a writer and business networking and referral strategist in Austin, Texas. She is author of The Intentional Networker: Attracting Powerful Relationships, Referrals & Results in Business.

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