Networking: A Woman's Contact SportLarry James
Making the right contacts in business is extremely important to your success.
The truth is, no one really has cornered the market on networking as a contact sport. Networking is too big a sport for anyone to ever get a corner on it. For those of you who are successful, however, it's more than a favorite pastime. It's a way of life.
Most successful business women that I know are active networkers. Women excel in networking. Ask me, I know. I know a professional networker when I see one. I have built my professional speaking and publishing career by networking.
Meeting people is a must. It's not only "who you know," it's "who knows you." Meeting the people who count has to be a top priority. Meeting the right people gets you noticed and gets you places. If you have a desire to work smart, networking is one way to effectively do that.
Successful women in networking are not shy. Nancy Siegel, owner of Nancy Siegel Insurance Agency, Inc., says, "Don't be afraid to be the first one to speak to a stranger. Most people feel as uncomfortable as yourself and are usually glad to have someone to talk with after the ice is broken."
It has been my experience that women seem to have a special knack for networking. Perhaps it is inbred in our culture. Women always seem to intuitively understand where to go or who to contact for just about anything they need or want to know. There are many men who are very successful at networking, however, when it comes to being creative with contact talents, women get "thumbs up" from me.
Let's put networking in the right perspective. For the purpose of this discussion, let's work with a definition of networking that has served me well.
Now, lets take a moment to think about that. Is that a belief system you could buy into? Read it again.
It is estimated that 65 - 75% of those people who are actively engaged in networking are women. People who network keep score by how many business leads they give others, not by how many leads they receive.
Kathy Holt, owner of Forget-Me-Not Gift Baskets, Inc., says, "If you really network right, with a commitment to only helping others, you will get back twice as much and make lifetime friendships." She should know. Kathy experienced a 38.6% increase in business in five months after she joined The Tulsa Business Connection, a group I founded in 1985. She also recommends joining and getting involved with the Chamber of Commerce.
You won't find people who take the easy way out actively participating in networking groups. Experienced networkers can spot someone who is only in it for themselves a mile away. People who want something for nothing do not succeed at networking. They fade in and drop out.
We erroneously call these people losers. They are not losers, they have yet to understand that to be successful you must first have integrity and second, commitment. They seldom stay with a project until its completion. Therefore they don't do well when networking because networking demands both integrity and commitment. People who know the truth behind my definition of networking know that when you help others get what they want, you ultimately get what you want.
High achievers consistently are looking for a way to better themselves and to assist others in the process. They know that by participating in someone else's success, they become more successful. You can't be afraid of hard work and effectively network.
Networking works. And you must consistently work it. Rose Mary Winget, sales manager at McCaw Communications once told me, "Don't say you don't have time. You don't have time not to network." Her entire sales staff is actively involved in networking groups. She also hired me to present my networking seminar, Networking: Making the Right Connections, to her group.
Rose Mary's experience has taught her that networking gets quicker results than prospecting. When you prospect, you are looking for potential customers and clients. When you network, you capitalize on the alliances you have developed with others in your network; they do your prospecting for you.
It makes sense. You can multiply your own personal effectiveness by the number of people you know, who believe in you, like you, trust you and are committed to refer business leads to you. Isn't it a better use of your time to develop close personal and business relationships with people who are on your side and will help you succeed?
Many salespeople never get down to business. Their only interest is "busy-ness." I don't know about you, but busy-ness has never made me any money. To be successful, you must do what counts. Focus on what matters. Networking is building supportive personal and busines relationships; it's meeting new people and making new friends; it's helping others help themselves.
Marilyn Minter, a former Tulsa real estate agent started her own networking group, "Tulsans Networking Tulsa" (TNT) in March, 1991. Marilyn says, "Networking has given me the opportunity to make contact with literally hundreds of people. I never would have met those people without networking. The heart of my real estate business came from the personal referrals acquired while networking." Her advice to women who are considering networking, "Get started. Be patient. Believe in yourself and never quit."
Within the concept of networking is a blueprint for change. With change comes new ways of thinking. If you always do what you've always done, you will always get what you've always gotten.
There is only one way to keep your career growing. YOU must keep growing. Ask the women who network about the personal growth they have experienced. Ask them about how much better they feel about themselves now that they are doing more of what the pros do.
In meetings that are specifically designated for networking, each person is asked to give their "30 Second Connection" as a way of introducing themselves and their business to the group. After her first networking meeting, Vicky Olsen, who was visiting the group to fill the banker slot, confided in me that standing up to give her "30 second connection" to the group was very scary and she wasn't sure she would return.
I asked her what her goals were for her advancement at the bank. She told me. I then explained that if she ever expected to achieve her goals, one of the most important elements of her success would be networking. To overcome her fear, I suggested that she take the Dale Carnegie Course. She did and later became one of their top "graduate assistants."
I also told her that as far as presenting her "30 second connection" was concerned, if she followed the guidelines, she couldn't get it wrong because no one in the audience knew what she was going to say anyway. I also suggested that she take an active part in the leadership of the group.
Less than a year later, she was the Treasurer of the group and served two one-year terms. Each week she stood unafraid to give the Treasurer's report. And now the good news: Vicky was promoted to Vice President of the bank.
It takes courage to network; do put yourself "out there;" to consistently move toward something better; to become the someone you look up to. The more you network, the more courage you receive. Be courageous and you will discover more courage!
Unless you are committed to doing more than you've done before, you will feel some discomfort when becoming involved in networking. This is natural. You will be in the presence of doers. You, who are not doing, may be confronted by this. Thus, you may feel uncomfortable.
People who do more get results! They are actively engaged in activities that feed their enthusiasm for their calling. For them, backward in not an option. They are on "fast forward." They get things done. They make every minute count when they are networking. They are aware of the "net" result. They know that what you put out to the universe, always comes back to you. They are dedicated to doing good for others.
How many successful people do you know? Network to get to know more. The energy they dedicate to helping others is infectious. Listen to their success stories. Listen for the opportunity that a fresh perspective presents. For me, it's a lesson in inspiration; inspiring me to be the best I can be.
For a horse, one inch farther often wins the race. In networking, you never know when the next contact you make may be the one inch that puts you in the winner's circle.
I met Gregory J.P. Godek -- America's Romance Coach -- while networking. Greg is the best-selling author of 1001 Ways to Be Romantic. We sat at the same lunch table at a National Speakers Association meeing many years ago. He referred me to his book distributor. Five days later, I had a three year contract for them to distribute my relationship books to all the major book stores. This was a big break for me. We have since become great friends. He mentions my work in the relationship area in his books; I mention his work for the "romantically impaired" in my books.
Networkers play too! When they play, they have fun. They know that the time they devote to social and recreational activities with family and friends pays off with a sense of having recharged their batteries. After 11 years of networking, Nancy Siegel advises: "Know when to stop and recharge. Learn how to say "no" to please yourself instead of "yes" to please others. when you network, network! Whey you play, play!"
Remember too, the energy level of successful people operates above average because they love who they are and what they do.
Above average people network for above average results. They know a good thing when they see one. They stick with it. They are the above average women who have discovered a wonderful contact sport called "networking" and are still making new and exciting personal and business contacts after "all these years."
Copyright ę - Larry James. Adapted from the book, The First Book of LifeSkills: 10 Ways to Maximixe Your Personal and Professional Potential."
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