The title of this weeks blog article emphasizes the word “work” in networking for a very good reason. Networking events, whether you like it or not, involve time, effort and work. Most times it will take several months before you will see a favorable gain or result from an event. They really are more about building relationships and trust over time with other business people and potential clients and/or customers.

Belonging to business organizations such as your local chamber can increase your business credibility. Many potential clients or customers view membership in these business groups as a sign that you’re an established business and accepted by your community and industry.

Stop selling yourself at these events and start listening to others and you will be amazed at the outcome and what you learn. Spend time asking questions and make it a point to introduce yourself to those who are standing by themselves. They will be happy that you approached them and may share some very valuable information in return for your friendliness.

Greet those you already know but make an effort to meet new people and include others in conversations. In other words, don’t be a networking snob by only associating with a few and leaving others out. You will stick out like a sore thumb if you try too hard to sell yourself and come on too strong.

Don’t run from person to person giving out your business card. Take time to talk to people and spend time listening to them. You can’t build relationships if you spend your time giving out and collecting business cards. If you meet and get to know three or four new people during an event, you can consider it a success! Focus on the quality of the connections you meet during these events and people will become much more trusting of you.

After your event is when the real “work” in networking begins. Following up with those you meet is very important. Send a card, email or call to set up a more personal meeting where you can get to know each others business better. You might even have a chance to sell your product or service but only after you have listened to them.

Networking can produce results. It might take a while before people feel comfortable with offering you a referral. Not all members will be able to help you, nor will you be able to help them but you never know what future potential exists. The more people who know about you and your business, the better chance you have that they will either work with you or refer someone else to you.