By Charlene Meriwether, CWCC Member
We’ve all been networking since we were children, but we never really thought of it as “networking”. You’ll remember it as recruiting for your neighborhood sports team, or lobbying for a spot at the “in” lunch table in high school, or, of course, being selected for THE elite sorority or fraternity in college. So, when I was invited to my first networking event as a novice business owner, I thought, “How hard can this be?”
I waltzed into that first event with a stack of crisp new business cards and bounced home to announce that I had given out every card I brought with me! I was so proud! Then my business savvy husband innocently asked, “How many did you get?” My smiled faded and I swallowed hard before answering, “Well, I didn’t want to be too pushy. Next time, I’ll bring their cards home.” Silently, I chastised myself for not knowing I was supposed to leave the event with something…anything!
Now painfully aware that “networking” was a reciprocating activity, I was determined to give AND get cards at the next event. I proudly came home from event number two sporting a handful of business cards and fanned them out in front of my husband’s face. I appreciated the supportive, “Awesome!” response to my coup. I was on the road to business success now! Those cards were stacked neatly on my desk for a day, 2 days, a week, a month…and the stack was growing! Surely this was a testimonial to my networking success! This is TOO easy!
In the throes of our weekly financial review that included my many networking event fees, my accountant/husband queried, “What’s your ratio of response after follow-up?” Follow-up? With some quick thinking answer about getting him those numbers by the end of the week, I pondered how to turn that neat little stack into “follow-up”. But, okay, now I had it: Give Cards, Get Cards, AND Follow-up! My little stack of cards suddenly became a notebook with little sticky notes about meeting dates, ideas for collaboration, and, my very favorite note, “revenue generated.” I even had an excel spreadsheet that I could bring to those financial review meetings, testifying to my great success as a business networker.
What else could there be to this networking stuff? One day the inbox on my laptop provided the answer. A little column on my networking group’s quarterly report to the membership on lead generation was titled, “referrals given”. Uh-Oh! There was no number in the box across from my name. It didn’t say zero. It just didn’t say anything. I then learned the final lesson in my networking journey…giving referrals. And it all harkened back to what I had known since I was a child networker, “It is better to give than to receive.” Happy networking!
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