Face it some of us were born to schmooze. Some of us were born to live in a castle surrounded by a moat. Unfortunately for the latter when you own a business you need to learn a few rules that come naturally to the schmoozers.
The 10 Rules of Networking
1 What are you trying to accomplish?
Not all networking events are created equally. Are you trying to cultivate additional referral sources or scouting for potential patients? Different venues will provide different opportunities. Decide what you’re trying to accomplish before heading out.
2 Go it alone.
We all feel more comfortable attending any function social or work-related with someone else. However when you go alone you’re forced to talk to people, it’s easier to insert yourself into conversations, and you’re less intimidating if someone wants to approach you to start a conversation.
3 Work the room.
Consider the law of averages — the more people you meet the more likely you are to make a connection. Converse for a few minutes and then move on.
4 Show interest
Show an interest in your new contact, without overdoing it. When you get people to talk about themselves and you listen intently and actively, you will be remembered as a fascinating conversationalist, even if you say very little.
5 Don’t use the word networking.
The use of the word (not the activity) has taken on a negative connotation. Social media is a form of networking that has a better “image”. Think of yourself as making connections, building relationships and seeking advice.
6 Don’t be pushy and aggressive.
If a conversation is going nowhere then move on. You may have just ended a conversation with the head of the largest primary care physician group in your area, but understanding when a connection isn’t being made is as important as knowing when one is.
7 Remember that networking is a two-way street.
You aren’t the only person in your geographic area who is out networking. The idea of reciprocity is perhaps the most important aspect of networking. Offer your help to your contacts and supply needed information whenever possible.
8 Take notes.
It’s impossible to remember specifics on every person you meet at any event, so don’t be afraid to take notes. In this day and age use your Smartphone to jot down notes as soon as possible after the conversation has ended.
9 Watch what you drink.
This should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. Alcohol makes it easier for all of us to meet new people. Good news, bad news, one drink won’t cause you to have regrets in the morning, but end it there.
10 Follow up.
You’ve made a connection (hopefully several) now follow-up. If it’s a professional who may potentially refer a patient make sure they get your referral kit. Any potential patients should get a coupon in mail (or any similar enticement).
And while we’re on that subject, too often in our profession, we think the only people we should be networking are other professionals. Wrong. A large network is an excellent way to garner new patients. Everyone you meet, and I’m willing to bet that “everyone” you meet knows someone who has a hearing problem. If everyone you meet knows who you are and what you do, then everyone you meet has just become a potential referral source, and that’s a good thing.