The ABC’s of Networking: Always be Connecting

Where’s the best place for networking in San Diego? I’ve been asked this question a lot lately so I thought it was worth summarizing the advice I’ve been given on the subject. First and foremost, “networking events” aren’t where you should be doing your primary search for business connections.  There is no magic “Match Dot Com” for business networkers.  The secret to networking is that you have to be doing it all the time, both online (social media) and offline (in person).  The mix is important.  It’s quite easy to get immersed in social selling and forget to get out of the building and connect with live people.

Let’s start with Neil Senturia’s rules* on networking:

Baby Rule #2 Networking is a profession.  Become a professional at it.

Baby Rule #3 You must go to every meeting and every event; in particular, the ones you know will be a total waste of time.

I can relate to #3.  So many times I put on my dress and grumbled off to an event, to cheerfully return later with a stack of cards from interesting new connections.

I’ve added a few rules of my own:

Never leave home without your business cards.

You don’t know when you’ll meet someone interesting.

Don’t be judgmental.

Just because your new contact isn’t THE right title at THE big prospect on your list doesn’t mean they don’t have potential to introduce you to interesting prospects in their network.

Get involved in something you care about.

Most great connections are formed around a common bond whether it’s for a non-profit, alumni group, sports activity, home brew, or an educational business group. In the past few years, a vast number of MeetUps around a nearly unlimited variety of topics have formed all across the county.

Always be Social Selling.

Social selling isn’t about promoting yourself, it’s about engaging with potential buyers, partners, and thought leaders around topics you care about.

Get your LinkedIn profile in top shape.

Does your LinkedIn profile describe what you do, using customer-centric keyword terms that buyers or partners might be searching on? Have you described how you are helping others solve their problems using case studies and examples?  No one wants to see a brag list written in the third person. Your buyers aren’t searching on “top region sales quota winner”.

Join LinkedIn Groups.

Follow interesting people and companies on Twitter or Pintrest or Instragram.

Follow partners and other thought leaders in the space, retweet or quote them to generate conversations.

In the air and everywhere else.

At the recent Women Investing in Women event, many participants met future partners, customers, and investors on airplanes.  I’ve met prospects at the gym. You never know who is standing next to you in line for coffee, or sitting next to you at happy hour.

However you do it, just get out there.

*From “I’m There for You Baby, Volume 1″ by Neil Senturia