Why did you participate in the last networking activity you attended? Did you put any thought into it or did you simply go out of habit? Most professionals fail to have a plan for their networking activities. This means they are either using the time ineffectively or wasting it completely. Both are killing business by squandering time that could be used to create income or otherwise grow the business. Those professional who do have a purpose often contribute to the stagnation of their business because of the goals they choose for their networking. If you’re like most networkers you either go hoping to find your next client, because need two more sales to make your goals for the month or because you are required to network for by your organization. The problem is these are all immediate, self-focused goals. People can spot your ulterior motives as soon as you cross the threshold and run the other direction as quickly as possible. If you already have the reputation of being desperate or pushy, as we discussed in the last blog, it’s even worse and they start hiding or making themselves “busy” when they see you in the parking lot. No one wants to be sold to!

Successful networking focuses on long term benefits. One goal for ANY networking event you attend should be to find one or two individuals you want to connect with or get to know better. Ask yourself one question as you are chatting. “Would I like to have an extended conversation with this person in the next week either by phone or in person?” Don’t limit your thinking to just the new people you meet. These conversations could include:

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1.  Someone you already know and have a great relationship with, but haven’t had the opportunity recently to connect with one-on-one. These one-on-one times are critical to maintaining strong relationships.

2. Individuals you’ve met before but haven’t had a chance to get to know well enough to determine if you could have a mutually beneficial relationship.

3. Someone you admire and want to learn more about.

4. Someone you’ve never met prior to the event but you find intriguing.

Adjusting your mindset to this new purpose can be challenging because you’ve been networking for the sale or client for so long that it’s become a habit. When you change your intentions and look for the four individuals above, your networking will be enjoyable and productive. This long-term networking strategy yields consistent, loyal business but takes time and effort to develop. Most people don’t have the patience to wait for the results. An added benefit of this approach is the ability to quickly recognize when a group is a good investment of your time and when or if it’s time for you to move on.

I’d love to hear in the comments who you are going to look for at your next networking activity!