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Heather Townsend

The Excedia Group


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Trainer’s tip: How to network effectively regardless of whom or where you meet


Heather Townsend shares her networking model, which she says will guarantee you network effectively regardless of whom or where you meet.

I've lost count of the amount of times I hear people tell me that networking is just a drain on their time, and they are getting very little return on their often substantial investment in time and money. Plus, so many employers expect you to network in your own time. (There are some negatives to being the author of The Financial Times Guide To Business Networking.)

Very often these people go networking without a purpose and trust that serendipity will bring them into conversation with the right people. These, often pleasant conversations, generally lead precisely nowhere. Networking, without purpose, focus or results ends up being a massive waste of time and money. This is the very reason I devised The FITTERTM model.

"Networking, without purpose, focus or results ends up being a massive waste of time and money."

This is my own model which I have developed over the last few years and used to train professionals business owners on how to network in a time efficient manner. It gives you a simple mnemonic which, if applied to your networking activities, will enable you to network efficiently and effectively anywhere, anytime and with anyone.

FITTER stands for:

Follow up

Your follow up is crucial to your networking success. After meeting new people, decide on how important they are to you. I tend to have a very simple classificiation system, where I class people within my network as an A, B or C-lister.

If they are likely to be able to help me meet my career and business goals in the short and medium term, I class them as an A-lister. My C-lister is someone that either the chemistry between us is just not gelling or they are very unlikely to be able to help me achieve my goals in the long term. Anyone I am not sure about, get's classed as a B-lister. 
Regardless of where someone fits in my classification system, I will always send them a note after meeting them, connect with them on social networking sites and add them to my relationship management systems. If they fall into the A or B lister category, I will ask for a follow up phone or in person meeting. If I sense that they are an A-lister I will normally have requested permission for a follow up conversation when I am actually speaking to them.

Introduce yourself with impact

You never get another chance to make another first impression. A good first impression enables you to start and build a mutually beneficial relationship. Most people when they think about first impressions, automatically think about meeting someone face to face for the first time. However these days they are just as likely to meet you online as they are face-to-face.
My research for The Financial Times Guide To Business Networking found that before someone will actually meet you, they will have normally already have formed a first impression of you by looking at your online footprint. Yes, your online footprint - how many of us, actively manage our personal online footprint? Unless you have an active content marketing strategy for your career and/or business, your LinkedIn profile is most likely to be in the top three results when people Google your name. Don't be under any illusions, the first step in any process to find out more about you will involve a google search. So, what does your LinkedIn profile look like? A shortened version of your CV? Or an active profile showcasing your personal credibility?

Target specific people

Like so many trainers your time is precious, so make sure you know who you want to meet and why you want to meet them. Before you even agree to an event, see who will already be attending? Are these the type of people, your career or business needs you to meet? Give your networking some va-va-voom by seeing if you can arrange to meet people at an event, rather than hope you will meet them at an event. It makes it ten times easier to enter a room full of strangers if you have already agreed to meet someone at the event.

Turn social conversations into business chat

Before you start talking business, take your time to get to know the person first and generate some rapport. Once rapport has been established, then move the conversation onto business topics. Many people make the mistake of zooming straight into a sales pitch when they are out meeting. Let me emphasise, when networking you are not there to sell or find hiring managers, you are there to build relationships. It's from these relationships that opportunities will flow.


How do I put this nicely? The best way to generate a relationship is to forget about you and your needs. I am sure that you are an amazing and inspirational trainer, but you will have better quality (and ultimately more profitable conversations) if you focus 80% of your energy on listening and finding out about the other person. When you are networking online, try to include questions which encourage people to comment and join in the conversation.


Your research will enable you to focus only on the events worth attending, but the social networking sites, forums, groups and people who will be beneficial to you to meet or re-connect with and good topics to talk about. You wouldn't write your personal development plan without an element of research, so why not research properly your networking choices - both at the big decision level - should I use twitter or join the CIPD, but also at the small decision level - should I attend this event?
So next time you think about going out network, make sure that you give yourself an effective work out by putting the FITTER model through its paces.

Heather Townsend is the author of The Financial Times Guide To Business Networking. Over the past decade, Heather has worked with more than one hundred partners, coached and trained over 1000 lawyers, accountants and other professionals at every level, within the UK's leading and most ambitious professional practices.She specializes in working with professional services firms and is the founder of The Efficiency Coach.


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Heather Townsend


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