You may have heard of the ABC's of sales, "Always Be Closing." However, for consistent sales and job opportunities, you must practice ABN, "Always Be Networking". Networking should be a natural part of your lifestyle. If you wait for an event to come around to begin to network, you're already behind the curve.
Some of the reasons to practice ABN include:
I can personally attest that quite a few job offers and awesome opportunities have come from me just attending events and making connections with the people there.
Maintain or build personal brand
The most successful companies don't rest on their good name and reputation. McDonald's serves billions of people and yet still regularly advertises and stays on top of consumers' minds. Follow their lead and continue to stay visible. The more people see you out and about, the more you'll come to mind when a referral is needed or an opportunity becomes available.
People have an unrealistic expectation that they will come out of every event with a couple of new clients or strong leads. However, networking is a long game built upon relationships. Many times it requires contact over a period of time before someone is willing to buy or even refer you to someone in their network.
How can you always be networking?
Set aside time
Schedule time to network like you would any other appointment. Use Mondays to calendar what events you should be attending and block off an hour or so each day to take someone out to lunch, breakfast or coffee. If that gets too expensive, just reach out and see how things are going with people in your network.
Go especially when you don't feel like it
Resist the urge to flake on events when you're tired and rather go home and lay on the couch. I don't know what it is, but I've made the best connections when I attend events that I originally didn't feel like going to. So get in the habit of remaining disciplined and networking when you don't feel like it.
Become known as a valuable resource. Send articles and tell or better yet invite your contacts out to events in their industry. Introduce them to others that could be a good connection for them. Pass along opportunities that you hear about that they can take advantage of.
Listen and ask questions
Attend events with the goal of making genuine connections, regardless of whether the person is a potential client. Be interested in what they have to say.
Keep contacts in a spreadsheet or customer relationship management system (CRM) to keep track of who you met, what you talked about and when you need to follow up. Bonus tip: organize by area of expertise so when you get asked to make a referral, you can quickly look at who all has that area of expertise and make the referral.
Keep in touch
Make it a habit to consistently reach out to your network, especially when you don't need anything.
Always be on
Don't limit networking to just events. Always look for opportunities to connect with others. Public transit, grocery store line, in church, etc.
Choose two groups to get involved and make a difference
Maybe one group is directly related to your profession and the other is more volunteer- based. The connections and experience you gain when involved pay back dividends. However, this is only if you do a good job and follow through on your commitments. If you're a flake and seen as unreliable in an organization you can kiss any chance you had on getting referrals from them goodbye.
Don't be a snob
Just because the contact doesn't seem like an ideal match doesn't mean you should immediately dismiss them. Some of my best clients have come as a result of having a coffee meeting with someone who was not a potential client and not even in my industry, but referred me to someone who was.
Mix it up
In addition to offline networking, stay visible and connect with others on social media. Choose one or two platform where you can be consistent. I personally like LinkedIn.
Keep these tips in mind and you will have an unlimited supply of leads and opportunities. Happy networking!