Networking at a meeting:              

Did you know that approximately 70 percent of all jobs are found through networking?

Needless to say, effective networking is vital to your continued business success. Very rarely does business just “fall into our laps.” Instead, successful business partnerships are created when we make an effort to target potential customers, establish communication, and cultivate long-term relationships.

As a member of the home builders association, you should try to take full advantage of all the business-building opportunities of your membership. By getting actively involved in the association, you can develop a substantial network of business contacts. There is nothing like working side-by-side with another member on a committee or community project to learn what really makes them tick, and to show them what you are all about. But to get to that point, you first have to master the basics of networking, the first step toward connecting with other people.

Below are the “Top 10” secrets for networking. Feel free to adapt these basics to your own approach, and develop a networking style that feels most natural and honest to you. You will be networking like a professional in no time!

Before the meeting:

   *  Develop a memorable introduction for yourself. It should be brief (five to seven seconds) yet memorable. “Hello, my name is Joe Builder, and I help people landscape the homes of their dreams.”

   *  Put your business cards in only one pocket of your jacket. Leave the other pocket free to put in business cards from your new contacts. This way, you will look prepared when you pull your card out easily from one pocket instead of fishing through a pile of cards.

   *  Check your appearance (and your breath)! You only get about ten seconds to make a first impression. Why take any chances?

During the meeting:

   *  Smile! Be friendly and show enthusiasm. People are drawn to pleasant people.

   *  Ask questions and, above all, listen to the answers. A general membership meeting is also a social function. Give and get information.  Ask other members how long the have been involved in the association, what committees they serve on, or if they have ever heard the guest speaker before. Find out what interests them and keep on that subject. You do not have to know much about the topic; the important thing is to simply establish a good dialogue.

   *  Do not sell. Do not sell. Do not sell! This point cannot be emphasized enough! Networking is a means of giving and getting information; it is a mutually beneficial exchange. It is not a one-way street for you to make sales. It is not making one party feel intruded upon at an event that was intended to be fun. This is a great opportunity to find out about a person’s interests in a relaxed atmosphere, and to let him know how you can help him in the future; but do not try and close a deal at a monthly meeting or any other social event.  There is a time for everything, and this is not the time.

   *  Hand out your business card wisely. If it is not suitable to the conversation, or if you have not even really had a conversation, keep your card in your pocket. Use your business card as a means to follow-up a personal exchange and as a way for that person to remember you.

   *  Moderate your eating and drinking. Do not drink too much, and do not be the first person in the buffet line. Good manners still matter a lot, especially when you are making a first impression.

   *  After the meeting:

   *  Follow-up with the contacts you have made. If you told someone at the meeting about a recipe she would enjoy, send it immediately with a handwritten note. Did you see a magazine article on that product a particular builder member was talking about? Mail it to him with a personalized message. Such small courtesies are remembered for a long time.

   *  Volunteer for any committee or association activity that you expect the targeted customer to attend, based on your earlier conversations. Volunteering for the association is one of the best ways to show your trustworthiness and commitment as a partner in the industry, and one of the best opportunities to work next to builders. Whether that means sponsoring an event or joining a committee or council, you can be pro-active in your networking strategies without being aggressive.  Remember, the follow-up contact you make after the meeting is just as important as your initial encounter. Treat the potential customer or client as you would like to be treated, and you will definitely be on the right track to increased sales.