The right way to network

Networking is much more of a science than an art. That became clear after I observed a networking group that’s been around for 22 years.

At 7 a.m. sharp nearly every Wednesday, the meeting of Perimeter Insiders Networking Group is called to order.

First, there’s the 30-second drill.

Each of the 28 members in attendance on a recent Wednesday stood and said his or her name, job and the kind of referrals needed for business or work. They followed up their introductions by repeating their name and job, like they would in a 30-second commercial.

“I’m Jackie Glover, a recruiter specializing in the placement of administrative support professionals. Good leads for me are companies moving into the area and job candidates with administrative skills. I’m Jackie Glover, recruiter.”

As a veteran of the group, Glover is well-known by members.  Nevertheless, just like a football player runs through the same drills at each practice, she stuck to the script. Repetition is key.

Next, came the “thank-you” phase.

One-by-one, many of those in attendance stood and thanked individual members for the good leads they had provided during a previous meeting. The brief show of gratitude was very specific, detailing what happened when the referral was contacted.

After that, came the heart of the meeting.

Each member stood, one at a time, approached another member and handed the person a completed form, while reading it aloud to the group. It lists a contact who would be valuable to that person, given his or her stated needs.

The form, about the size of an index card, is divided into key sections: Is the contact hot or warm? Is it OK to use the referring person’s name? And then there’s a place to list the name, organization and information of the person to be contacted.

This meeting yielded 47 referrals from the 28 attendees.

Everyone participates. Everyone benefits.

“It’s the best professional decision I’ve ever made – sticking with the group,” said Tony Nelson, sales director for office furniture company, Corporate Environments. “Forty-five percent of my business comes from referrals from the group.”

Here are other pointers:

– Among its 37 members, no one is in the same business or occupation, so there’s no concern about competition. That fosters cooperation.  The group includes a lawyer, real estate broker, lender, accountant, condo association manager, specialty advertiser, travel agent and personal trainer.

– Meetings last about 75 minutes. Miss more than seven of the 48 weekly gatherings in a year and you’re out. Membership is now closed because participants feel 37 is about the right size for optimum networking. Annual dues are $400.

– Each week, one or two members deliver a 10-minute, detailed talk about their business. That way, the referrals they get are more useful.

– Finally, each member has a networking book containing business cards of all the other members. They carry the book with them at all times.

While this is a business-to-business group, networking groups made up of job seekers can benefit from a similar format.

“Givers get,” said Rick Hale of Keller Williams Realty Atlanta Midtown. “You gotta give first.”

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