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Growing a small business is tough work. The sales function is a time consuming task with a constant need to fill your "sales funnel" with fresh, qualified prospects on a regular basis. And that's why everyone pushes networking as one of the best ways to build one-on-one relationships. However, most people hate networking events.

Why? Because many networking events seem just like a constant barrage of sales pitches - with everyone trying to get the elusive client. Networking is about making contacts and building relationships. And you can't do that with just an elevator speech. Sure, you need one of those, too, but if you really want to build better contacts and a better referral network, you need something more.

If you really want to be remembered you need to stop talking about yourself and start focusing on others. Find out their needs and wants (even if they don't apply to your business) and offer to help them find the answer. Here are some tips to start the networking pro that everyone loves to be with: 1) Ask open-ended questions in networking conversations.

This means questions that ask who, what, where, when, and how as opposed to those that can be answered with a simple yes or no. This form of questioning opens up the discussion and shows listeners that you are interested in them. 2) Become known as a powerful resource for others. When you are known as a strong resource, people remember to turn to you for suggestions, ideas, names of other people, etc. This keeps you visible to them.

Be able to articulate what you are looking for and how others may help you. Too often people in conversations ask, "How may I help you?" and no immediate answer comes to mind. 3) Follow through quickly and efficiently on referrals you are given. When people give you referrals, your actions are a reflection on them.

Respect and honor that and your referrals will grow. 4) Call those you meet who may benefit from what you do and vice versa. Express that you enjoyed meeting them, and ask if you could get together and share ideas. The biggest thing is to be respectful to everyone.

Remember that 'please' and 'thank you' can go an extremely long way, and courtesy doesn't cost anything. Also, be respectful of the person's time. Everyone is busy, so keep interactions brief and to the point.

The key is you actually have to reach out and 'touch' people for the sales process to work. You can spend small fortunes on direct mail, television ads and print ads, but the best way to build your business is by expanding the network in which you operate. Any great salesperson will tell you this.

Shannon Cherry, APR, MA helps businesses, entrepreneurs and nonprofit organizations to be heard. Subscribe today for Be Heard! a FREE biweekly ezine and get a FREE special report. Go to:



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