Networking is a technique of connecting with other people for the purpose of exchanging ideas and information. It’s a fundamental tool in business and can be enormously beneficial to a writer who is looking for work or promoting his or her book. Successful networking takes effort and a willingness to reach out. Following are tips to help you hone your networking skills.
- Seek out the obvious sources first. When you need information or input, start by contacting those who should have that information–a horticulturally-aware friend if you need help saving a sickly plant, for example, or a self-published travel writer if you have a question about marketing your book of day trips.
- Keep detailed Rolodex or database listings. When you add a name to your Rolodex or learn something new about someone already listed, make a note. Note that this person is a photography buff or that she’s a volunteer at a raptor rehabilitation center. The next time you need a photographer or a good story idea, you’ll know where to turn.
- Network everywhere you go. Explore potential avenues of information during social and business events, while chatting with a clerk at the grocery store, during parents’ night at your children’s school or at the water cooler at work, for example.
- Let it flow naturally. Networking doesn’t have to be forced conversation. Simply watch for the opportunity to talk about your project and take it. Recently, at a time-management workshop, participants were asked to share current projects that seemed to be stalled. One woman announced that she was having trouble finding recruits for her pet therapy program. She signed up two new volunteers that day.
- Ask and you will receive. Be specific. Instead of asking a fellow author, “What does marketing a book involve?” say, “What has been your most successful marketing strategy?”
- Be heads up. A good networker will be alert to information they can use even when they’re not in network mode. Recently, I was telling a fellow Toastmaster about an article I was writing on healing and therapeutic gardens. He told me about his brother-in-law who operates a community garden for the homeless-an unexpected and unsolicited lead that gave my article an additional dimension.
- Be patient. Networking can take time. You might talk to a dozen people without locating the information you seek only to have one of them come back weeks later with a lead.
- Listen, listen, listen. Successful networkers are good listeners.
- Request additional resources. Before leaving a networking conversation, always ask for additional references and referrals. When I interview someone for a magazine article, I always ask, “Do you know someone else I might contact?”
- Avoid feeling obligated. Not every idea, opinion or bit of information given is useful. Don’t feel obligated to use it just because you asked for it.
- Respect the time and space of others. When you approach someone at a meeting or call them to discuss something specific, be considerate of their time. If you need more time, offer to see him professionally or take him to lunch.
- Do the legwork. Never ask someone else to make follow-up calls or do additional research for you. Do this work yourself.
- Be gracious. Sometimes you’ll disagree with the information given or you’ll have already tried the suggested procedure. Don’t make this an issue. Simply thank the person for his/her help and move on.
- Offer feedback. People like knowing when they’ve been helpful. Call or send a note of thanks and describe how the information given was used.
Tips for the Networkee
Sometimes it’s harder to be on the giving end than the receiving end of networking-a problem that it is in your best interest to change.
- Sow and you shall reap. If you’re reluctant to give, you probably won’t get much back. Avoid judging every connection by its money-making potential. Be available without expectation. You will be rewarded.
- Share even without invitation. Whenever you become aware of data or a contact you feel someone can use, offer it.
- Give with no strings attached. Give and then let go without attempting to dictate how the information or advice should be used.
- Know when to say “no.” If someone is pressuring you for more information than you are comfortable giving or attempting to take more time than you have available, suggest they make an appointment for a consultation and quote your fees. Often people ask me “How do you self-publish a book?” — a question that’s impossible to answer in 100 words or less. I’ve learned to respond within three minutes by giving an overview of the complexities of self-publishing, listing the basic reference materials and offering my services as a publishing consultant.
- Avoid giving until it hurts. After responding to a question or sharing information, let the networker do his/her own homework.
- Networking can be fun. It’s an exciting way to discover new ideas. And it’s a viable method of finding the resources and information you need in order to achieve your personal and professional goals.
Excerpted from Patricia Fry’s ebook, The Successful Writer’s Handbook.