Part I - Collecting Contacts

One of the most popular ways  to gain new customers is to go out networking. To one degree or another, we all do it, but do we enter the door with a plan? Many times, I drag myself out the door when I’m wiped from a hectic day, countering a strong desire to stay home and vegetate. On the drive, I energize by reminding myself of my plan of attack: my 3-2-1 rule.

Meet 3 new contacts. Not just say hi and shake hands and move on (although that would get me home faster) but have actual conversations that last longer than five minutes. The conversations should not be limited to “what do you do?”; whereby we each spout our much rehearsed elevator pitch. In fact, they can be on any topic, as long as it is comprised of a real conversation, eye contact, friendly tone of voice, and an even exchange. I want to get an intuitive sense of who this new person really is. My gut will tell me if I will want to develop a relationship going forward.

Reconnect with 2 contacts. Here, I scan the room for familiar faces. Not my close friends, but people I’ve met once before and want to make that second touch. Even if I don’t remember their names (often the case among those of us who network a lot), I re-introduce myself warmly with a “nice to see you again” and really mean it. This gives you a further opportunity to converse with and get to know more about this person. People like spotting someone familiar at a networking event, so go over and ask what’s new.

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The last rule is the most difficult but the most important, and that is to think of one possible lead or referral for someone in the room. Come right up to the recipient and let them know that there is someone in your database who may either need their services, or may be a good source of prospects.  Going out of your way to give someone a lead is the best way to stand out from the crowd in their book. Word may even spread that you are generous with your database, and if so, walking into a room full of people you barely know will result in folks coming over to you without your wondering who to approach.

If I follow my rules, I won’t come home with a stack of business cards I’ve collected, and that’s a good thing. I have definite plans for these 3 to 6 cards I’ve collected, and I’ll clue you in with Part 2 of this article.