NETWORKING: 
Are You Networking or Are You Collecting? 
"The fortune is in the follow up!" 

Attending networking events are a great way for entrepreneurs to share their business, their products and their services, no one is going to argue that, but in our attempts, as entrepreneurs, to share our businesses, in order for there to be any fortune in following up after the networking event (connection), there has to be a lead to follow. 

So what's the problem. Why is networking not working for so many women entrepreneurs? 
In my opinion, based on what I have observed, too many women entrepreneurs are jumping into networking events with only an intent to sell something! That's it. Why? Because that's the "what to do" that is swirling around social media. Unfortunately. Eager to prove that what "they" said is true, women entrepreneurs are coming with candles, business/life coaching programs, wraps, sandals, events, health tonics and jewelry...and doggonit, the order of the day is to  sell, sell, sell!!!!!

Networking is so much more than selling! 

Well, I've collected lots of business cards, doesn't that mean I should follow up? 
The networking event is over, you're back home, sorting through all of the business cards you've collected. You do your customary "immediate/within 24 hour followup", only to find out that quite a few of the business cards DO NOT have email addresses on them and some absolutely no contact information at all. Your email is fantastic and your email signature is loaded with information about who you are, what you do and the latest "deal offer". 

Too often followup lands on death ears and blind eyes with responses like: 
     - Auto respond emails
     - Quick responses, "Great, say here. Good luck!" 
     - Go away responses, "Delete me please from your email list."
     - Polite but still go away responses, "Yes, nice meeting you. Good luck in your business." 
     - The "buy" response, "Check out my website for some great deals on wheels!" 

What happened? 
You have to ask yourself, honestly, "Did I network, making real connections...or did I just collect as many business cards as I could just so I could email lots of people about what i have to offer?" There is an art to networking. 

If you are having trouble turning your networking into some networth, here are a few tips that may help you see better results: 

1. Be clear on how networking events fit into your overall business development plan. It's not enough just to go to networking events and pass out your business cards, expecting to sell something to everyone. Understand WHY networking is a marketing strategy that you are choosing to use in your business. 

2. What are your networking event goals? What do you want to achieve from each networking event. Do you want to make sales? Do you want to gain new referral partners? Are you looking to connect with other business owners? Are you looking for collaboration opportunities? Again, this ties in with your overall business development goals. 

3. Be real clear...you are in business for you and ultimately your clients. Networking is about YOUR business goals and YOUR results. It's nice to share leads and referrals, but YOUR business must be the priority. 

4. Don't believe that everyone in the room is doing business. Lots of people can polish it up, looking and sounding fabulous. Don't judge books by their cover. Take the time to have conversations. 

5. Do not give your business card to anyone who does not ask for it. If they do not ask for your business card, they do not have any desire to do business with you, nor do they want to share you with their connections. Move on. 

6. Do not take a business card from anyone who you know you have no interest in doing business with. Same things go for you. It's perfectly okay to say, "Thank you, but I am not interested." 

7. Polish your pitch! Nail down your pitch, making sure you are not sounding monotone, nervous or unsure. Women entrepreneurs often stumble over what to say when ask, "So, tell me about what you do?" It's your business. It's your passion. You should know exactly why you are doing what you are doing and you certainly should know why people need what you have.

8. Do not be afraid to jot down notes. Trust me, when you get home, you will more than likely not be able to recall all information that is shared with you, so never hesitate to jot down notes that you are going to want to recall later when following up. 

9. Have a system in place. Create forms to help you keep track of your follow up, the conversations and the results. Create an assessment tool to help you take an honest look at your networking event performance...What can you do different or better? What should you not do? Was the event for you? Should you not attend again?  

10. Keep networking!!! Attending networking events is a great way for entrepreneurs to meet other small business owners in the community, share their businesses. Don't overthink the process. No worries. It may take a few tries to find what exactly works for you.