Networking… What Is It And How To Set Up A Networking Group In Your Community

Networking is one of the most powerful techniques you can use to succeed in almost any endeavor.  Networking is not a new word or concept and has been defined in many ways.  Networking has been described as a vehicle that connects people with other people who share ideas, information and resources with each other.  When you think of the number of people that you come in contact with on a daily basis, it makes sense to learn a process that helps develop and use your contacts to increase business, enhance knowledge, expand your sphere of influence, or serve the community in which you live.

Being a good networker is not easy . . . it is much more than shaking hands and exchanging business cards.  They key to good networking is mutual support.  You must adopt a “givers gain” philosophy of doing business.  Only when you actively support others in getting their needs met will they support you in achieving your goals.

Establishing a structured networking group in your community can be the start of a rejuvenated spirit among the merchants.  The steps required to get such a project started are as follows:

  1. Invite a select group of merchants to a breakfast meeting (7:00 to 8:30 a.m.) to introduce the networking project.  If possible, only one person from each profession is allowed to participate.
  2. Explain that the weekly meeting provides everyone the opportunity to participate in organized networking functions for the purpose of promoting their business, products or services.  These functions or exercises will permit participants to exchange ideas as well as create leads, contacts and new business opportunities.  The organization is predicated on the concept of “what goes around comes around.”  If you freely give business to others, they will give business to you.
  3. Each meeting requires a facilitator who can coordinate all activities. It can be the same person or a different leader each time.  The facilitator announces the exercises and times of each exercise accordingly.
  4. A sample exercise is as follows:
    • Lead forms are on each table for everyone to utilize.
    • Each person passes his or her business card (to their left) to others at the same table.
    • The exercise is as follows:
      • Each person has 60-seconds to give the following information: name… name of company … product or service benefits … biggest need currently ? what is needed or desired to increase business … memory hook:  slogan that enhances top of mind awareness factor.
      • Others at table will direct questions or give leads to each speaker for 60-seconds.  This procedure of speaker and group input continues until all have been heard.
      • Information about each person is noted on back of their business card.
  5.  Other exercise-questions are as follows:
    • “What qualifies you to do what you do?”
    • “What is your biggest need this week – what are you looking for?”
    • “What special or unusual service are you giving currently?”
    • “Why should people buy from you?  Can you capsulize this into the lowest common denominator (LCD)?”
  6. Switch tables.
    • At the conclusion of each exercise, everyone will switch tables to be with a new group of people and start a new exercise.  Business cards are exchanged and lead slips utilized.
  7. Other network meeting activity.
    • A spotlight speaker will be designated for each meeting.  The speaker has 10 minutes to tell all about their business and give appropriate demonstrations.
    • A table will be designated for display of sales literature and other materials.
  8. Important points to remember:
    • Be able to describe your product or service in 60-seconds or less.
    • Develop a humorous “memory” hook.
    • Take the time to follow-up leads.
    • Have lunch with other network group members.
    • Develop a brochure for your firm.
    • Approach networking as a business ? be persistent in your efforts.

In recent seminars, we have conducted various networking exercises and the participants have thoroughly enjoyed the activity.  It is interesting to watch problems being discussed and group feedback helping individuals.  The key is to have meetings that are focused, that offer on-going support and education relating to each other’s businesses and how they work.  Each member has his or her networking sphere, yet each is committed to helping one another increase his or her business through referrals.