May 2005    Vol. 14, No. 5  REAP HOME PAGE  A publication of the Center for Rural Affairs    
REAP Rural Business Roundtable

Topic: Make Networking Work for You

Networking can be valuable to you personally and professionally. Local networking functions such as your REAP Association or roundtable meetings, Chamber of Commerce meetings, PTA meetings, other organizational involvement, and holiday parties can be a great way for you to gather valuable information.

What’s to Gain?
The benefits of effective networking abound. For you, maybe it will be:

  • A sale
  • An appointment
  • New contacts /leads
  • Resource information that may help your business or a current project
  • Making a new friend
  • Just fun

Make the Most of Your 20 Seconds
It’s important to be ready with your introduction or 10 -20 second sound bite about what you do and what your company can do. Of course, you should include who you are and what your business does in your introduction.

Your message or introduction should be concise and easily communicated. It could include a statement about your “unique selling proposition,” USP, which is a distinct idea that sets your business apart. For example:

“Hi, I’m Joe Smith and I run Smith Cleaning Service. We help our busy customers keep their nice homes clean and looking great!”

Then be ready to describe more about your service if asked, and provide a business card or flyer to this potential customer and an extra one for them to pass along to someone they know who could be your customer!

Keep the Conversation Going
Phrasing the right questions and keeping the conversation going will add to your effectiveness in gaining value from every contact. Ask questions such as:

  • “Who do you know who…?”
  • “What do you recommend?”
  • “How could what I offer support or benefit you?”
  • “What’s the biggest obstacle (fear, concern) you face in your business (or family, neighborhood)?”
  • “Do you have a contact in …? Who should I call?”

Every contact is a chance for you to grow, develop, learn, and prosper. Through your networking experiences, you can become proficient in gaining value from every contact.

The 10 Commandments of Networking
REAP has a 25-minute networking video in our library for you to check out. This video highlights the 10 Commandments of Networking, listed below.

  1. Thou shall not act like the Lone Ranger. All successful people form a strong network.
  2. Thou shall honor your relationships.
  3. Thou shall acknowledge people.
  4. Thou shall become a resource for others.
  5. Thou shall take the initiative.
  6. Thou shall be your own PR person.
  7. Thou shall ask for what you want.
  8. Thou shall expand thy horizons.
  9. Give unto others as you would have them give unto you.
  10. Networking shall be thy way of life.

Now take some time to network and discuss!!!

Roundtable Discussion Questions

  1. What changes can your REAP Association and/or Roundtable group make to help improve the networking value members receive from the group? For example, do you allow time for members to give their 20 second sound bite? Do you ask if members have business issues they would like to have help with or discuss?
  2. Take a couple of minutes and allow everyone time to jot down their 20 second commercial. Pair off in small groups and share these. Help each other critique and tweak them for conciseness and effectiveness. Come back as a group and share the commercials around the room. Plan to say your commercial during the introductions at every meeting. Help new members prepare theirs.

Write your “Business Introduction /20 second sound bite below:


Reference: Excerpts of the above are from: Janet Drez, “A Perfect Solution, Home-Based Business Tip of the Week”.

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