As a business matchmaker, I see people miss opportunities all the time. An entrepreneur might talk with someone, realize he or she is not their ideal client, and check out of the conversation, not knowing who that individual may know. They may know someone who is their ideal client or perfect power partner for them.

A power partner was searching for a speaker for their eWomenNetwork chapter, so I made an introduction. It turned out that the person was booked to speak at a prior engagement. However, this connection knew another person who my power partner, had been trying to contact for some time. She made the new connection and booked the speaker for her event. Neither one of us could have predicted that outcome, but by not being present all of us would have missed out.

“When you focus on taking care of others,
they will naturally want to take care of you.”

Networking is all about meeting people, building relationships, and trusting that the right people for you will be in the room. When you attend networking events with the primary goal of building great relationships and giving first, there is no limit to the value you can receive. When you focus on taking care of others, they will want to take care of you.

You may not see that return on your investment immediately, however, as long as you are meeting new people, you will benefit. Networking allows the strongest return on investment for your business, and the benefits go way beyond just business. You may network on behalf of your business, but it can change many aspects of your life. You never know who you will meet at a networking event, and that’s part of the fun!

Having Clear Expectations

The secret to making the most of networking—and most people don’t know this—is to be clear about your expectations before each event you attend. Be clear about who you want to meet and what your business needs. If you know who you want to connect with, it is much easier to find them. The law of attraction says, “what you think about, you bring about.” When you are clear about what your business needs, then—almost like magic—people who provide support in that area seem to appear.

“If you know who you want to connect with,
it is much easier to find them.”

Have you ever asked someone at a networking event who their ideal client is and heard them say, “Everyone?” They may not use the exact term everyone; they might say “all women” or “all entrepreneurs.” One of my favorite examples of this occurred at a recent networking event I attended. I met someone whose focus was skin care. She represented a line of organic, toxin-free cosmetics. When I asked her who her ideal client was, she jokingly said, “Anyone with skin.” Really?

Think about how you would react to a response like that. If you’re like most people, you wouldn’t be persuaded to refer them because you don’t know their specifics. When you are clear about who your ideal client is, the people you connect with will want to help you find them. The key is to describe your ideal client in a way that enables the person you’re talking with to picture them.

You want them to run through their mental Rolodex looking for individuals who fit your definition. Most entrepreneurs have big Rolodexes, so it is difficult for them to explore their entire list. If you can help them narrow their focus, it is much easier. When you can draw a picture for them, they will generate referrals. It’s magic.

Follow Up Is Crucial

Follow-up is also crucial to successful networking. So many people attend a networking event collect a stack of business cards, then never follow up. It is in the follow-up phase that connections can become relationships. It is amazing though, how unusual following up is. For those of us who follow up, this creates a tremendous advantage. We can cement the relationship and leverage it quickly.

Think about your own experience with this. Have you ever experienced someone who didn’t follow up with you? Maybe you were at a networking event, talking with someone, and you showed interest in learning further about their business and services. You may have even given them your card, and they said they would follow up, but they never did. How did you feel about them? Have you ever had the same experience, except the person followed up with you—the next day? I’m betting you felt better about them. It only takes you a few minutes to follow up via email or text, but what a difference it can make!

“Today, you can network locally and be connected globally.”

When we are networking, we often forget the power social media brings. I believe in face-to-face networking foremost. It is important to be there, in front of people. There is so much information about a person, yourself included, that is experienced when you are face-to-face with them. Once you meet someone, it is easy to expand your relationship through social media. I am constantly looking for new connections on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. I use these platforms to introduce my connections to others who weren’t in the room with us and to bring together people who can support each other. These are strong tools for leveraging your networking.

In today’s virtual world, you can connect a virtual assistant in your area to an entrepreneur you know on the other side of the country. Social media has enabled me to become known beyond the Northwest and connect with wonderful people nationwide. Many people don’t think about the international reach they can have. Some of my best relationships have been with people outside of the Northwest. They are individuals I’ve met online, and built relationships with them by connecting with video tools like Skype and Zoom. It all comes back to networking. Today you can network locally and connect globally.

Look for Networking Opportunities

“Active networking has changed my business completely.”

I approach every situation as a golden networking opportunity. It doesn’t matter if it is a local, face-to-face networking event, a live training session with three hundred people, or an online meet-up. No matter what room I’m in or what group I’m with, I’m meant to meet people for a reason. I’m interested in building a relationship whether I expect they will be a perfect client, a power partner, or something else. You never know where each exchange may lead you.

Networking has transformed my business. It has opened opportunities I would never have had working on my own. My local business has expanded into new markets. Because of the people I’ve met all over the country, I have booked several speaking engagements in other cities, states, and countries.

Networking is one of my favorite things to do. I love meeting different people and understanding how I can help them. I also love the unexpected benefits of networking with the right people. It is something we all do in our workaday life; however, we don’t always maximize the value others bring. Denise Morrison, CEO of Campbell Soup, says “networking is working,” and she’s correct. Networking is the most productive working you can do.

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About the Author:As an established networking expert and business matchmaker, Brittani Nelson matches entrepreneurs with the power partners and referrals that move their businesses forward. She is passionate about connecting her clients and power partners with the referrals, knowledge, and resources they need to thrive. A perfect match between business and client or business and timely resources creates beneficial relationships and builds a stronger community. Brittani promotes growth through connections.