Networking provides a great opportunity to meet new people, take a break from your screen, and develop your business. Sometimes though it feels like there’s no, or very little, return on investment and referrals or leads don’t come to fruition.

Here are a few tips for making the most out of networking and gaining those referrals. 

1.    Invite clients to attend networking events with you; they will talk about you and the good work you do. 

2.    Step out of your comfort zone. Walking up, and introducing yourself, to a complete stranger can be daunting, but your time spent with a new contact will be valuable. 

3.    When meeting new contacts talk about other networking groups that you’re involved with and/or organizations you volunteer for. Invite them to attend with you to develop your relationship further. 

4.    Follow up. Always follow up with a new contact. Invite them to your office. Brag about the great coffee … and cookies. New contacts and clients always love visiting GPR&M HQ because it’s such a relaxed and inviting atmosphere – and Chris has the beer fridge well stocked! 

5.    Are there other groups within your existing network that you could attend? For example, we are members of the Springfield Insiders BNI chapter, which meets every Wednesday morning at 2931 Montvale, but there are an additional three chapters in the area, which I have also made the effort to attend over the past month or so.

6.    Actually, work at giving referrals. Take five minutes every day to think about the conversations you’ve had and the people you’ve met, what they are up to and services they might need. Make a list of possible leads. Reach out to contacts, clients, friends and family and ask if they’d like you to make an introduction to an expert in your network. 

7.    Next time you say to someone ‘we really must do lunch or grab a coffee sometime,’ follow up and arrange a date, time and place. I’ve made the effort to spend at least one-to-two hours each week with someone I’m on a committee or board with, know from a networking group, or have been meaning to catch up with - it’s been a lot of fun. 

8.    Finally, if you want to network with certain people and develop a better understanding of their businesses or roles, nurture your relationship and support one another, there’s nothing stopping you from setting up your own group - even if you meet once a month over a glass of wine.