In the words of author Harvey Mackay, “Networking is not a numbers game. The idea is not to see how many people you can meet; the idea is to compile a list of people you can count on.”
To woo and win clients, try to join groups in which you are one of the few representatives from your profession or area of consulting. Skip those organizations comprised solely of your professional colleagues. As an author, these are great networking opportunities to find speaking engagements.
It was Groucho Marx who sent the telegram, “Please accept my resignation. I don’t want to belong to any club that would accept me as a member.” I don’t recommend being that snobbish, but it pays to aim above your station in selecting groups to join.
When you find a group outside of your profession to join don’t always sit on committees made up of others in your field. As a financial expert, you won’t meet many you can market your services to if you volunteer for the finance committee—comprised of all the other financial bigwigs in town.
To advance your career or build clientele, it’s essential to take part in professional groups. Personal contacts made through these groups prove to be invaluable assets to both your career and your company or cause. So before you sign up, put on your Sherlock Holmes hat and do some sleuthing.
Work toward becoming a leader of one or more clubs; do that by joining the right committee. Do some homework before volunteering. Determine the chairpersons and members of various committees, then join those comprised of people with whom you want to form relationships. Committees give you a chance to show off your stuff (not just swap business cards), plus an opportunity to get to know all of the members. Use your status as a group member to seek advice from key players inside and outside the organization.
When you meet people ask them for their business card. Next, ask them what types of people they would like you to refer to them. Finally, ask them for permission to include them on your email list. Advise them they can get off the list any time they want. You’ll be amazed at your database will grow.
President Bill Clinton told The New York Times that for most of his life, every evening before he turned in, he listed every contact he’d made that date and entered the names on 3 x 5 cards, with vital statistics, time and place of the meetings, and all other pertinent information duly noted.
Here are seven principles for maximizing your membership opportunities.
- Strive to join groups in which you are one of the few representatives from your profession or corporate rank, rather than organizations comprised solely of professional colleagues.
- Let someone convince you to join the group. Use him or her as an ally to become a leader of the group, but avoid assignments that require maximum work with minimum reward.
- It is more important to attend the social hour than the meeting itself.
- Do your homework before joining a group. Begin by forming a linkage with the key staff person.
- Joining the membership committee is a smart way to gain the favorable attention of the group’s power structure.
- Seek out high-visibility assignments, such as ad-hoc committees that report to the board of directors.
- When you discover that an organization doesn’t exist in an area where you want to form alliances, take advantage of a golden opportunity and form such a group.