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How to Network Effectively Networking is getting to know people whom you can help and who can help you. Here are four steps to make your networking work.

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Networking is the art of making and utilizing contacts. The goalof networking is to create a pool of people and information thatcan directly increase the quality of your product or service,decrease customer attrition, and, most importantly, leave yourcompetition wondering how you won a job they never knew wasavailable.

Many small business owners don't want to network becausethey think its about shoving your business card in someone'shand and boasting about what you do. In fact, networking isactually about getting to know people whom you can help and who canhelp you.

Networking expert Steven M. Krauser, President of NetworkAssociates, Hicksville, N.Y., contends that most business peopledon't know how to make networking an effective business tool."If the result of your networking is a stack of business cardsin your top right hand desk drawer and not a lot of additionalbusiness, then it may be time for you to re-evaluate yourmethods", he notes.

Krauser says small business owners should approach meetingpeople using two goals: get to know as many people as possible, andget them to know you. He then recommends the following four stepsto make your networking work:

Give and get information

Networking is a two-way street. When you meet someone, you wantto ask them about their business and tell them about yours. Startwith the basics - name, company, affiliation, position, nature ofbusiness, etc. You next want to find out if you can benefit eachother. Try covering these topics:

  • What does your company do?
  • What types of clients do you serve?
  • Who makes the buying decision within a firm for each of yourservices and/or products?
  • What sets you apart from your competition?

Evaluate the value of the contact

You can't network thoroughly with everyone. Once you havethe preliminary information, you need to decide if this person isworth meeting again and creating a relationship with. Can you helpthem and can they help you? The answer should be "yes" toboth.

Another criterion is to look for people who are truly interestedin helping others solve a problem, no strings attached. In otherwords, don't think of yourself as a networker but as a problemsolver, and look for those same characteristics in someone you willconsider adding to your personal network.

Form a strategic alliance

A network is not a collection of business cards, but of people.Take the time to understand the business of those in your network.If you've chosen members wisely, this should be a pleasure. Andmake sure that you educate them completely about what you do andwhom you do it with. Give each other updates and encouragement. Ineffect, you become each others' sales people.

Remember that the purpose of networking is not to get yourcontact's business; instead, you're trying to get businessfrom everyone this person knows.

You should also be able to turn to those in your network formanagement ideas, advice, leads, even vendor recommendations. Youwill learn from each other and contribute to each other'sgrowth, both in terms of profit and performance.


As your contact base grows, you have to re-evaluate the peoplein your information loop. Practice effective time management skillsand prioritize your contacts. You will want to get in touch mostoften with those that can be most useful to you. They will becomeyour inner circle.

Be careful never to burn bridges; you never know when someonewill be able to help you, or when you will be able to help them. Ifyou feel as though someone is not useful to you right now, youstill will want to check in with them now and again, because theymay become important down the road. In other words, be nice toeverybody because you never know where they'll show up.

The viewsand opinions contained herein are not necessarily those of AmericanExpress and are intended as a reference and for informationalpurposes only. Please contact your attorney, accountant or otherbusiness professional for advice specific to yourbusiness.

Copyright © 2002 American Express Company. All RightsReserved

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