There are hundreds of networking opportunities in every major city in America – from chambers of commerce to simple clubs and groups. All you need to do is Google “local networking events” and you’ll find tons of opportunity.
But be sure to have a strategy before you run off to your first event. I recommend targeting your efforts. In other words, make sure you go to events where the prospects you need to meet are most likely to hang out. Don’t waste time at events that are off-track or you’ll end up with a ton of dead-end leads. And we suggest you avoid getting hooked into any networking that requires a commitment yet provides poor results.
I know a salesperson who drives 25 minutes each way (50 minutes total) to go to a networking luncheon for 90 minutes (now we’re up to 140 minutes) once a month. Twelve times each year. That’s 28 hours. So she spends 4 full days (almost one full week) at a networking event trading business cards with people and hoping for referrals. And after over a year of this I asked her if she ever got any business from it. “No”, she replied. “But they tell me I need to be patient and make sure to go every month.”
If she spent time at the RIGHT place, she’d get more leads. Or, better yet, if she spent 28 hours cold-calling, I’m sure she would have found more leads than she did driving back and forth to a monthly event that had no real prospects.
Bonus: And here’s the key that most people miss – don’t sell at networking events. Simply ask people what they do; be interested in their business; ask lots of questions. If there’s a fit, it will emerge. Of course that’s when you’ll want to trade business cards.