Make Your Connections Count: 10 Things You Need to Know (Now!) About Successful Networking

In the business world, we’re often advised to network. Interested in changing careers? Network! Need to attract some new clients? Network! Wish you had a knowledgeable mentor? Network! The fact is, networking is a valuable and effective tool that can enrich and advance your legal nurse consulting business…when you use it properly. The problem is that many of us are wasting our time with a type of networking that is not working.

Examples of two types of networking that are not working include making connections with the wrong people or approaching the right people the wrong way.

People often comment that I must have known a lot of attorneys when I started my legal nurse consulting business, but the truth is, I didn’t know any attorneys. I didn’t live in their neighborhoods or get invited to their parties. What I did do was reinvent traditional networking.

If you’re ready to put an end to networking not working and see the results you want, read these 10 tips.

Don’t just socialize – select. Perhaps because the strategy is so ubiquitous, many people confuse networking with simply being friendly. Any time you meet new people and make new connections, the thinking goes, you’re adding on to your social circle and thus networking. But that line of thought is stretching it a little thin. True networking isn’t “just” hanging out and being friendly – it’s meeting the right people.

Be selective when you’re trying to network. Think about it: you can chat and laugh and make friends all day – and that’s great for your social life. But unless your new friends can connect you to attorneys, don’t delude yourself into thinking that was effective networking. Successful people are selective about where and with whom they network. They research what they need, they locate its source, and then they connect.

Make sure your group makes sense. Understanding that the neighbors’ cocktail party may or may not be an opportunity to network is Step One. Step Two is realizing that even among professionals, you must still continue to be selective. In other words, you won’t necessarily find the people you need at your typical networking social hour. You must create a personalized network of colleagues, clients, consultants, vendors, and acquaintances on whom you can depend to give you anything from information to referrals. I’ve never been a fan of networking groups, yet I have a significant network that I can call on anytime I need to. Advice, resources and connections are just an email or phone call away.

Know when to move on. You’ve heard of beating a dead horse…but when it comes to networking, that saying could be amended to “mining a dead prospect.” In other words, no matter how selective you were on the front end, don’t make the mistake of giving any particular individual or group all of your time if you aren’t seeing results or getting quality advice.

Networking is about business, not pleasure. That’s not to say that you can’t develop a friendly relationship with people in your network. Just don’t allow your own hopes or friendship with someone else anchor you to an unproductive group. Your time is valuable and while you’re spinning your wheels over cocktails, you could be engaging big on marketing to that next attorney-prospect.

Dale Barnes, RN, MSN, PhN, CLNC shares that the first networking group she joined turned out to consist of businesspeople, but none of them could offer her connections to attorneys. Still, she stuck it out for a year because the group had come highly recommended. Once she joined a group comprised of attorneys, CPAs and bankers, all of which related directly to her CLNC® business, networking started to pay off and so did her CLNC® business. It’s worth it to research the makeup of a group before you join or the guest list of an event before you RSVP.

Get outside your comfort zone. Generally, we tend to gravitate toward people who are similar to us: people who think similarly, who find similar things fun, and who are in similar walks of life. That’s fine when it comes to your friendships, but you need to aim higher when it comes to networking. It’s normal to gravitate toward people who are like you – but in business, one of the main reasons people don’t get ahead is that they don’t get out of their groups. Make every effort to meet people who are more successful than you are. If you impress them, they’ll have a lot more influence than someone whose success is equivalent to yours.

Instead of casting a wide net, go after individual fish. When you cast a wide net, you might garner a large number of possible contacts, but chances are you won’t be able to spend enough time building a relationship with each of them in order to make it a worthwhile to your CLNC® business. However, when you try to hook individual fish, focusing on one or two specific contacts at a time, you can build stronger, more meaningful relationships. You’ll get to know their wants and needs and they’ll have a better understanding of yours.

Develop a system for keeping up with details. How often have you attended a conference or other event, met a bunch of different people, and then returned home without cultivating any of those relationships? Instead, put the information you learn from and about people to work. There are tons of apps and other software available today that can help you keep up with important details about people immediately after you meet them. When you meet someone new, take note (electronically) of what the person looked like, what you discussed and one or two things you found unique about that person. That way the next time you speak with him or if you want to reach out after the event, you can mention something that will personally interest him, allowing you to make a stronger, more lasting connection.

Manage the follow up. Rubbing elbows at one or two events with a new contact does not automatically create a beneficial relationship. How you follow up with that contact is just as important to your legal nurse consulting business as how you made your first impression. When you do check in with a new contact, find a way to create value. Send an article that might interest her or connect her with someone who might be a potential new customer or who might be able to help with her business. Tell her you recently put a piece of her advice to work and thank her for her valuable insight on the matter. When you do these things, you create reasons to stay in touch and that’s a great way to keep the relationship growing.

Don’t wait until you need something to follow up. Remember, the new relationships you’re forging aren’t all about you trying to get anything and everything you can out of your contacts. Be careful that you’re not constantly reaching out to them asking for this or that for your CLNC® business. Show how you can benefit the person as well. Simply waiting until you need something to reach out to the person will make him feel like you’re taking advantage.

Network outside social media. While networking through social media is an important way to make a connection, it’s not the only way to maintain it. You can’t and shouldn’t depend on millions of LinkedIn connections and Facebook friends to do the trick. Simply having an online connection with a huge group of people is not going to drive that much action for you. You have to connect with social media connections offline in order to really form meaningful relationships with them. Message privately. Write letters or thank you notes. Pick up the phone and call. A high level businessperson I know calls four different people in his network every morning just to reach out and see how they’re doing. The lesson learned? You simply can’t lose when you create a systematic way for staying in touch!

Give as much as you get. Successful networking is a two-way street. Most of us start by asking for help and advice, but as we become more knowledgeable and successful, we gain the means to help others. Whenever possible, give younger or less experienced people advice and guidance.

No matter how successful you become, do whatever you can to help those who have helped you. Successful people are often bombarded with requests for help. They respond to the individuals they like and have a positive history with. This is where developing meaningful relationships comes into play – if you are there for someone in your network, he or she will probably be there for you in the future.

Ultimately, taking not working to networking isn’t difficult – it simply requires you to be smart about who you’re spending your time with. Always engage in powerful and meaningful networking, not just a pocketful of business cards and a glass of cheap white zinfandel. And never stop expecting high performance from your network – if it’s not productive, move on!

Success Is Inside!

P.S. Comment and share your successful networking experiences.

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*The opinions and statements made by Vickie Milazzo, the founder of Medical-Legal Consulting Institute, Inc. are based on her experiences and expertise, should not be applied beyond the specific context provided, and do not guaranty or project actual results. Vickie Milazzo is no longer involved in the operations or management of the business, but is involved as an independent education consultant.

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