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Networking 101: Seeing And Being Seen

If you have a card file full of names but can't seem to turn those contacts into fruitful relationships, you may wrant to take a closer look at your networking skills. "Networking is about being seen consistently," says Ellen Volpe, president of American Business Associates of Long Island, in Farmingdale, N.Y. Volpe runs several networking groups of local business people. "The potential lies in who a person knows and can introduce you to." But there's more to it than collecting business cards. Volpe offers this advice for greater success in the subtle art of networking:



• Take a long-term view Understand that networking is not Belling. If you're looking for the next order, not a relationhip, you'll leave feeling that you haven1! accomplished anything. "If the meeting results in a sale, that's great," she Bays, "but the purpose of networking LB to build rapport."

Before attending function, prepare yourself. When the inevitable question arises about what kind of business you are in, avoid a mundane answer such as "1 sell copy machines." Develop and practice an interesting and creative way to describe who you are and what you do. Try describing how you help individuals or companies achieve certain goals, and, if relevant, provide an example of recent work you have done. Such descriptions help people make connections, and that helps them remember you.

• At receptions or in similar settings, adopt an attitude of host or hostess. Ask people what kind of work they do. By making them feel more at ease, you will feel more comfortable, too. Rather than drift away from them, introduce them to others in the room and start expanding the network.

• Suppress the tendency to prejudge. Coming to the conclusion—based on a person appearance or type of business—that he or she can be of no help to you often results in lost opportunities. Effective networking requires an open mind. Even in industries far apart, there can be commonality.

• Good listening skills allow ou to find ways to Begue into common-ground areas on a personal or business level. It's worth getting a book or a tape on how i improve those skills.  As you I in to develop busine through networking, it ie important to demonstrate reliability. Deliver on your promises. Maintain relationships by taking the initiative to call or meet with your contacts from time to time. "Networking is word-of-mouth marketing, and the activity is cumulative," says Volpe. "A person's network is not always going to bear fruit, but sooner or later it will. What matters is a consistent, patient approach to the activity."

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