By Gerrit Betz
Do you feel like the time you spend meeting new people isn’t paying off at all? I can’t solve all your problems, but I can point out a few things that I think are necessary, but not sufficient, to have any success at all networking.
Follow up, and soon
Do you do anything with all the cards you gather? Decide for each one whether there is any chance that you might form an enjoyable and productive relationship with the person. If you can, act within 2 days.
"Act" might mean an invitation on LinkedIn, a call, or an email introducing the person to some resource or person that you think will be useful for this contact. Whatever it is, just do it. Fast.
If you do this within 2 days, you won’t be forgotten. This alone sets you apart from probably 50% of all of the people that person met in addition to you.
Arrive early, stay late
If you are only present during the regularly scheduled time, you're passing up a big opportunity to get a lot more out of only a little more effort.
Folks who stay for only the scheduled time may not be habitual networkers. They may be there just for the program. Try to find these people and engage them in that limited time. You don’t know who around you may be a great match, so recognize that your opportunity to talk to others is more limited for some than others.
Don’t get sales-y
"Sales-y" is hard to define, but you know it when you see it. It's on the wrong side of a fine line; nobody feels awkward if you deliver an introductory elevator pitch, but pushiness is obnoxious.
I think the best advice I can give here is based on my experiences in political campaigns.
In those situations, people will readily identify themselves to you as interested or uninterested as soon as they realize who you represent. 99% of the time, there is no persuasion in a political cold call. None.
If you craft your introductory elevator pitch so that it describes the problem you solve and not just the service you provide, others will immediately communicate their interest. If they don't, a hard sell wouldn't have gotten you anywhere, anyway.
Become a regular face
Once you've vetted a group, becoming a "regular" is hugely beneficial. We know that familiarity breeds affection, not contempt. The more others see you, the more they like, know, and trust you.
And let’s be frank; how many excellent lawyers do you know who can’t explain why one tax attorney is better than another? Each practice area is too opaque. In this profession, getting someone to like, know, and trust you may be the only thing you can realistically do -- especially if that person is a non-lawyer.
Improve your targeting
‘Bad targeting’ means that you're hanging around the wrong type of people.
It's not that they're bad people. They're just not your people. Golf is a famous pastime for people involved in business for a reason; it's where many businesspeople are.
Get creative if you can. Sometimes you can network with a group of people not at all like yourself, but who find your service valuable to them or others they know.
Good luck and happy networking!
You can contact the author here, and follow @gerritbetz on Twitter.