Mentoring with SCORE: Networking is a Strategic Activity

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Oftentimes, those who network think “the more contacts the merrier” when it comes to attending networking eventsUnfortunately, that approach rarely works. 

What does work is being strategic about why you decide to attend a networking event.  As a small business owner, time management is a key skill and deciding where and when to spend your networking time is critical. Answer these simple questions and turn regular networking into strategic networking.

Is the event or the hosting party strategic to your business’ growth?  And, will your target customers and referral sources be attending?  All too often the event is the wrong venue and those attendees are not strategic to your enterprise. 

With these simple guidelines, average networking becomes strategic networking, generating more profitable connections, qualified leads and new business for your organization.

Mark McGregor, in “Speaking of Hearts,” offers a few networking tips to consider:

  • Prepare for the event.  Know who may or may not be attending. Prepare for what you can talk about that is not about you, per se.  Books you’ve read, movies you have seen, travel, restaurants you frequent.  
  • It’s the quality of the connections, not the quantity.
  • Connect with authenticity – listen intently before responding to understand what is being said. Be a perceptive observer of nonverbal cues to understand all that is being “said.”
  • Wait for someone to ask for your card instead of just handing them out – the quality of the connections improve dramatically.
  • Forget a “what’s in it for me?” attitude and adopt “what can I learn about others?”
  • Listen, listen, listen – be interested in others and focus on what they are saying; then they will be interested in you.
  • Work to build relationships, not just contacts. Invest time and energy in those who you have met to create solid connections. 
  • Focus on giving the first referral. Referring you will follow.
  • Use stories to demonstrate why others should refer you.
  • Be specific about the type of referral you seek.
  • Actively engage in the process of networking; don’t wait for it to happen to you – it may not.
  • Thank the person who initiated the referral within 24 hours of receiving it.  
  • Arrive early and volunteer to help set up. You can begin your networking while assisting in the organization of the event.
  • Networking can occur anytime, anyplace – not just at formal networking events. 
  • There will be a time in networking when it will be your turn to describe who you are, what you do, and what you offer your target market. Be prepared with an “elevator pitch” that is not “salesy” but clear, concise and focused.
  • Be prepared to network by having something interesting to say in response to others’ dialogue. What was the last book you read, movie you saw, or vacation spot that is most memorable?  It’s about being interested in other people and having something interesting to say.  
  • No matter what occurs, if you connect with someone and a relationship has begun, follow up, since the exchange at the networking event was only the beginning. 

Contributed by Marc L. Goldberg, Certified Mentor. SCORE. For FREE and confidential mentoring contact Cape Cod SCORE at 508-775-4884,,  Sourced: “Speaking of Hearts” by Mark McGregor, Jane Renzi., “Do You Struggle with Building a Network?” by Solange Lopes, CPA, MBA, Stonehill College.