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Networking Success

By Debra Pestrak

Did you know?

1. The New York Times Social Anxiety report showed that attending a gathering of
    strangers is the #1 social fear, and public speaking is #2

2. ExecuNet survey results about how people feel about networking:
          So painful I don’t do             6.0%
          Difficult but endurable         63.8%
          Fun-it’s natural                   23.5%
          Seamless and systematic       6.7%

3. Which would have the greatest impact on enhancing your networking skills?
          More time                                18.8%
          Better attitude                          30.2%
          Better techniques or strategies   40.3%
          Job loss                                    10.7%

In 1996, I left Corporate America to start my own business and follow my passion which is to teach others how to get what they want out of life, and to live to their full potential.

At the same time, I figured I might as well pursue the home of my dreams so we moved to the beautiful San Diego area. I didn’t know anyone, nor did I have any business contacts.  Now I had to go out and find my own clients.  I figured this ought to be a breeze since I’d presented sales proposals and ran sales organizations for 18 years.

My first networking event was at the Chamber of Commerce "Business After Five" event. I sat in my car thinking about what I was going to say, you know the “elevator speech”, and preparing myself psychologically.

As I stepped out of the hotel elevator, I came to a complete halt.

A first for me!  In front of me were hundreds of people milling around talking.  I realized it was the first time I had been to an event where I knew no one.  Normally you will know someone that you can break the ice with or give and get a reassuring smile across the room. A feeling of isolation came over me.

Then I began my self-talk — where you say that everything will be ok, just be yourself, you know what you’re doing. After seconds, which seemed like minutes, I smiled and took those steps toward the registration desk to get my name badge and enter the throngs of others looking to establish those relationships that will lead to further business success. Even though I was uncomfortable I knew it had to be done.

You’ve probably heard me talk about one of the traits of all top performers is “Doing what it takes.” Networking, attending social functions, always looking for the right match with potential clients is what is required for success in our business.

Based on the above statistics, it would be great to get networking to being fun. One of the ways for that to happen is to understand techniques and strategies that will make you feel more comfortable and knowledgeable about how to network. Below are questions to ask, and tactics to use to be successful in your networking.


  • What do you do?
  • What is your passion in life?
  • What do you enjoy the most about what you do?
  • What type of companies or people do you normally work with?
  • What problems do you solve for your clients?
  • How did you end up in this line of work?
  • What do you find most challenging about your job?
  • Where does most of your business come from?
  • What are the biggest challenges your company is facing?
  • What made you decide to become part of this organization/association?
  • What benefits have you derived being a member of this organization?
  • Tell me more about that.
  • Do you know of anyone else who might benefit from my services?
  • What geographical areas does your company serve?
  • Last time we spoke/met you mentioned that you were facing __________ challenge.  How has that turned out?
  • What new things are happening since we last met/spoke?
  • Are you aware of (something happening within your mutual business type or their industry)?  How are you going to react/respond?
  • Did you see the recent article about ___________?  What did you think?
  • I heard/read in the news about ___________.  Has that had any effect on your business?
  • Would you like to get together for lunch?  I’d like to get to know more about what products/services you offer.  My clients see me as a resource, and maybe I’d be able to refer business to you in the future.
  • Would you like to get together for lunch/breakfast/drinks?  I’d like to get to know more about what products/services you offer. If I know someone looking for your type of services, then I would know to whom to refer them.
  • You mentioned that your company is __________.  I have a lot of expertise in that area and have a couple of ideas that might help with the challenges you are facing.  Could we set a time to get together?  I’d be happy to share my ideas with you.
  • When would be a good time for us to get together and do some brainstorming on how we might be able to help solve _______________________?
  • I have some ideas that might help address that challenge, but I’d like to get some additional information from you?  When would be a good time for us to get together?


  • Review purpose for attending
  • What is the expected outcome or goal? How many new people do you want to meet? Too many people stand around talking to people they know, because it’s comfortable, and that doesn’t get you new business.
  • Check that you have business cards
  • Check how you are personally feeling.  Do you need to adjust your attitude?
  • Review “30 Second Commercial” - the more interesting, the more attention. Saying “I’m a real estate agent” does not make it interesting and can shut the other person down.
  • Review networking questions
  • Look at newspaper, listen to news – this shows you keep up on the trends and are knowledgeable.
  • Research people you want to meet
  • Evaluate how much time you have. If you spoke to a new person every 10 minutes, how many new people would you talk to?
  • Arrive early
  • Wear your name tag


  • Ask for introductions
  • Select a table for good positioning
  • Look for people you want to meet
  • Ask questions
  • Mingle
  • Invite people to your table
  • Shake hands and introduce yourself – introduce others
  • Exchange cards
  • Spend 40% of your time speaking and 60% of the time listening
  • Look for both affinity (business-to-business) opportunities and individual clients
  • Know how to break rapport so if there is no potential for business you can move on to someone new
  • Offer something of value to the prospect before you ask for their business
  • Make a note on their business card of things you want to remember about that person
  • Follow up


  • A note, phone call, personal visit within one week to your high-potential prospects – re-establish rapport
  • Progress phone call two weeks
  • Remind the contact to call if has any new ideas
  • Think about why this person would give up their valuable time to meet with you – WIFM (what’s in it for me)
  • After a few weeks, send relevant article or item of interest.

When following up with contacts, especially successful professionals, don't let an initial or intermittent setback discourage you. As long as the connection was strong and your value is clear, the other person will generally respect (and even admire) your follow up efforts. So why not include follow up as part of your networking time commitment? Implement the discipline of allocating a 15-30 minute time slot for networking follow up activities within twenty-four hours of attending a networking event. Success Key: Do this when you schedule the event in your calendar.

Stay positive and resist the temptation to take this as a personal rejection. Be persistent in your efforts, basing them on the context and value of your initial conversation. Above all, be patient as you seek to move forward. Remember relationships take time and need to be nurtured. And by the way, this process evolves at the speed decided by your prospect.

There are three components to an effective networking strategy: relationships, value, and timing. Relationships are the foundation for moving forward, value confirms the basis for investment, and timing acts as the catalyst for action. Develop those relationships and provide value to your prospective clients and follow up.

Networking produces optimum results when it is done strategically. Identifying, then accessing, the right network is far more effective than being active in the wrong one. One network, if it's the right one, holds the key to more business than you can handle.

Now get out there and network. Remember that the more you do it the more comfortable you will become. You’ll become a natural.

©2007, Success Unleashed, Inc.®

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About the Author

Debra Pestrak is an award-winning motivational speaker, an expert on top performers, and author of the Playing with the Big Boys & Girls series. Ms. Pestrak was a player in corporate America for 26 years, working her way up the ranks from an entry-level position to managing a $20 million budget, and instituted and led sales organizations. She has research top performers for 20 years and interviewed the top business executives and #1 real estate agents in the country. Debra presents programs and seminars on top performer living.

Debra can be reached at 888.786.3777.

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