"Before you go to a meeting, spend two to three minutes thinking about what you have to offer, what you need to get from the networking opportunity and ways you can sell yourself," advises Beverly Williams, president of the American Association of Home-Based Businesses. "If you make contact by asking for help, people feel less threatened, because it isn't as if you're asking them to buy something. It helps to join groups that give you an opportunity to get to know people on occasions that aren't selling situations."
Brennan has discovered that everyone counts in networking. "Everybody you meet matters--not just those in your field," Brennan says. "You can discover new contacts and ideas from the person you sit next to at the church picnic or in your child's dentist's office, someone sitting across from you at the bank or your wife's business associate. What matters is being interested and sharing your ideas--what you like, do, or are interested in. Don't worry about trying to sell yourself. If you are genuinely interested and share your thoughts with people, new ideas and contacts will naturally emerge. Networking generates the unpredictable."
Jay Massey, owner of Coco Graphics, a Web-site design company in Pensacola, Florida, would no doubt agree. While buying milk at a small, locally owned convenience store, he struck up a conversation with the woman behind the counter. "She asked about my business and we had a nice chat," Massey says. Through subsequent conversations, he discovered that the woman and her brother were developing a new hotel franchise, Ashbury Suites and Inns. "Now my company is handling all corporate communications strategy and implementation for Lodging Hospitality Systems, the parent company for Ashbury Suites and Inns," Massey says. "It was the best gallon of milk I ever invested in."