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How to Turn Lemons into Lemonade: Networking Redefined
As an introvert (until I feel comfortable with you, I don’t say much, but then watch out!), walking into a networking event is hard when I don’t know anybody in the room. However, networking is crucial for both growing and established businesses, collaborating with others, and building relationships. So, we muster up the courage, bite the bullet, and go to events, but always remember to find the people you connect with; don’t settle for less.
People don’t always know the full story, and true friends and colleagues will reach out or be glad to hear from you when you take the step.
I started networking when I launched my business 27 years ago. I hopped on a plane and flew across the country to San Diego, not knowing anyone except a friend I met through networking. With over 300 in attendance, it was overwhelming, but the best decision I made as a new business owner. I attended subsequent conferences they held and met great friends and colleagues, including Candy Zulkosky along the way, and I still have personal and business relationships with several of them.
I didn’t do a lot of local networking for a few years; however, I knew it was essential to building relationships, so at one point, I joined a national women’s group with local chapters in my area. After attending their weekly meetings, I met several friends and eventual colleagues. After a couple of years, I entered into a partnership with the group leader, someone I trusted and believed was also a friend. When the partnership ended badly, I left the networking scene for over five years. The incident left me completely torn and raw. I didn’t know whom to trust, and I was hurt by my friends and colleagues who continued to support her and this group.
I allowed one horrible incident to stop me from interacting with friends, professionals, and colleagues I met through networking with this group. Was it pride? Was it embarrassment? I had nothing to hide.
I can admit I’m a sensitive person, and I take things personally. But I’ve also learned:
  • Not to take things personally; it isn’t about me!
  • Choose my circle who share my values!
  • People don’t always know the full story, and true friends and colleagues will reach out or be glad to hear from you when you take the step.
Fast forward to February 2020, I reached out to a friend who was in the previous networking group, and we reconnected. She told me about Evolve Women’s Network. I was familiar with it. I wanted to believe they walked the talk of being an authentic professional women’s group with no cliques and no judgment but was it really? And was my head in the game? Was I ready to trust?

I knew several of the members, so I decided to give it a go.

I attended one meeting before the lockdown, but I decided to join the group anyway. They were up and running with virtual Zoom meetings within a week or so. While in-person meetings are great, online networking is one positive which came out of the craziness of 2020. I have re-established relationships I put on hold during my healing time, and I continue to meet genuine women professionals from the USA, Canada, and other countries.
As I mentioned before, once I’m comfortable with people, watch out. I’ve become involved in this group because they live up to their mission,

“Evolve Women’s Network exists to provide an open and inviting environment with a sense of belonging that encourages relationship building for all women. We strive to prepare, serve, and grow the success of every businesswoman we meet.”

I’m now a team mentor for their Virtual National Meeting each Wednesday. My confidence is growing and I’ve started speaking again.
Don’t Let One Bad Experience Define How You Network - Colleen Wietmarschen
Through the years, I’ve learned three tips to focus on when networking, and the Evolve group has reminded me to:
1. Build Relationships Before Selling
Years ago, my business coach said, “when you go to networking events, be deliberate, and if you connect with just two or three people, it’s OK. Your goal shouldn’t be to grab a business card from just anyone.” Consider the saying, “quality over quantity.” The idea is to be intentional with whom you’re looking for but then continue the conversation after the event is over.
2. Follow Up, Ask, and Serve; It’s A Three-Way Street
The event is over; what’s next? Statistics show that 48 percent of people never follow up after their first contact, 25 percent follow up a second time, and 12 percent follow up a third time. Only 10 percent of people make more than three follow-up touches. After the fourth touch, 10 percent of people say yes, and after five to twenty touches, 80 percent of people say “Yes!” Consistency is key. Yes, we’ll receive more “No thank you” responses than “Yeses,” but the more contact we make, the closer we are to hear the exciting yes.
People have different systems for following up; what’s important to remember is finding out what works for you and be consistent. One practice for following up is the 2+2+2 method. This system takes the guesswork out of how to follow up with connections you meet. Follow up with clients or prospects in two days, two weeks, and two months. Connecting in this manner reminds you when to connect with a contact. Another follow-up approach I learned and follow is from the male-female group, H7 Network: Connect, Serve, Ask. In simple terms, it’s important to connect with the person after the meeting in a 1:1 call where you learn about them and develop a relationship and while talking with them find a way to serve them. You want to serve the people you connect with, and they’ll be more likely to serve you. Ask works both ways for you and your connection; ask how you can serve them, and you have a specific ask for them. Evolve and H7’s strategy is for you to sell through the room and not to the person. For example, if you are an author and you have a book discussing bullying in schools, your ask could be connections with principals, teachers, or PTA board members which could land you an opportunity to present a workshop or parent Q and A engagement.
3. Have a Clear 30-Second Pitch No matter what networking group you attend, you’ll be asked to stand up and talk about what you do and usually in 30 seconds or less. Be comfortable communicating your strengths and knowledge. What can you bring to others? Practice makes perfect. Honestly, this is the point in the meeting point where I want to melt into the floor. I always seem to stumble, and it’s because of the itty bitty __itty committee in my brain. “Who cares? Why would an author want to work with you? What makes you good enough to proof and edit other people’s work?” Because I know my worth and I know how I treat my clients, and I am good enough.
In closing, I leave you to consider this: We can redefine networking in business. While one horrible experience can tear us apart inside and make us question ourselves, let’s not allow it to define us. Go back out there, hold your head high, find the people who matter most to you, and be yourself.
Written by Colleen Wietmarschen
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