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By: Lynne Culverhouse

291,000,000! That’s the number of hits you will receive if you do an internet search for Networking. Too many? Let’s streamline and focus on Networking Tips. Oh yes, better….only 7, 820,000 articles to review! As you can see, there are many, many discussions and advice on networking and most contain very valuable information and tips on the “process” of networking. However, not as much is attributed to the “value” of networking.

Defining value is difficult. Value, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder and value changes based on specific needs and demands. For instance, if your goal is to build a contact database, you might find value in the networking theory of “get as many business cards as possible”. These cards hold value to you because they contain contact information for your list. Once you have entered the important data, you will most likely discard or file away the card, never to think or see of the person or business again. You received your intended value from that business card or networking experience and about 80% of the articles in the search engines will help you achieve your goals and values.

However, what about the other 20% who are embracing a newer methodology of networking and defining value differently? Have you heard the words, Networking, Relationships and Giving all used in one sentence? Do any of these words fit into your personal definition of “value”: Giving, Teamwork, Connections, Resources, Sharing, Dreams, and Relationships? If so, you will benefit from the value of Relationship Networking and the philosophies embraced by eWomenNetwork members all across the United States and the local chapter here in Tyler/East Texas.

Sandra Yancey who is the founder and CEO of eWomenNetwork has written a book entitled Relationship Networking: The Art of Turning Contacts Into Connections (2006). Her book focuses on the core philosophy of “giving first and sharing always” in regard to establishing strong relationships in business through the divulgence of information. Yancey is quick to point out that a powerful networker always believes in giving first and should constantly look for ways to share contacts, resources, information and leads without an expectation of anything in return. Yancey whole heartedly believes in the philosophy that “it takes teamwork to make the dream work” and “Give First – Share Always”. “Understand the law of the universe; that is, you must give in order to receive. And, you inherently know that when you give freely without expectations you will be rewarded ten-fold,” said Yancey.

Sandra, and those associated with eWomenNetwork continue to empower women to leverage their leadership and power to make a tremendous difference in the process and art of networking by focusing on building relationships instead of merely collecting business cards. So, how do you “build a relationship” from the exchange of one business card? You don’t! First, you must understand that networking is a process. Just as in any relationship, it takes time to cultivate strong business relationships.

Let’s start with the first interaction. If you meet someone and you learn of a specific need or request of that person, think about who you know that can help with this need. This is the most appropriate time to give out your business card. Take your business card, turn it over and write a brief note. Include a reminder about what you want to talk about. For example, you might simply write: “I have a great florist for you” call me! Or you might write, “Let’s chat about that web designer you need – I think I can help”. Feel free to ask them for their card also as you are handing them your card and note. Also, be sure to write on the back of the card that you receive something quick to jog your memory about this person. There is nothing worse than a stack full of business cards with no idea why you have the card. These cards have no value to you.

Second, you must follow up with those you make contact with and continually strive to build successful business relationships. Get to know about your contact’s business. Find out all you can and how you can help make referrals for them as well as them for you. It’s always a good idea to find ways to help outside of business. Volunteer your time.

Turn those contacts into connections! When someone makes a referral for you, always take time to make a quick phone call or drop an email and follow up with your referral. Be sure to send a thank you note to anyone who has provided you with a referral or helped you find a solution to your needs. Each communication is an interaction and you can turn these interactions into transactions. Keep in mind it’s not about “he/she who collects the most business cards wins”, but instead it is about defining value by building relationships and turning your contacts into connections. This is a perfect example of quality over quantity. You might just gain more than business transactions and walk away with some great new friends.

Remember the golden rules of relationship networking: It’s not about ME…It’s about WE….so get out there and GIVE FIRST and SHARE ALWAYS!

Submitted by:
Lynne Culverhouse
Managing Director, Tyler/East Texas
Tyler, Texas

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