Cornerstones of Summer Networking Success

Business-building, Networking as a marketing strategy, Networking for sales success, The seasons of networking No Comments

Whether it’s an out-of-office automatic email response, a voice mail message that indicates a two-week absence or a last-minute change in a meeting due to a holiday, this time of year can be both frustrating and demoralizing.

Take these four characteristics into consideration as you interact with others. They will minimize your anxiety and maximize to productivity in spite of the road blocks that appear, seemingly overnight.

1. Prepare for the change in attitude. Networking for Results™ is a business process. As such, it mirrors the annual business cycle. The Spring Networking Marathon suddenly hits the proverbial “wall” about the middle of July. But wait…does it actually shut down overnight or does it slowly adapt to a different format? A closer look at the process reveals that by the end of June most people have begun a slow change is attitude, anticipating or preparing their Summer priorities. Become more aware of this transition by listening for clues in conversations with clients and colleagues.

2. Adapt to the Summer mindset. There is no question that Summer brings a different mindset. Longer days, warmer weather, end of the school year and annual Corporate holiday schedule all combine to impact our attitude and our activities. Instead of being frustrated by this reality, use it to your advantage. Make “Summer issues” an active part of your conversations. In fact, make it a point to ask about this with every important prospect and high-value relationship in the next 30 days. Have them expand on their insights, interests and itinerary. The information you hear will be invaluable in maximizing your Summer networking strategy.

3. Research Summer networking options. The idea that networking dies over the Summer is a fallacy. Businesses don’t shut down for two months, customers don’t stop taking orders and prospects still need products and services. Summer brings a whole new set of options to create, build or maintain relationships. A business meeting can be part of an afternoon of golf. A luncheon meeting can be enhanced with an outdoor setting. An offer to adapt a shipping or billing issue around a holiday schedule can be a powerful leverage point. A short call with a personal message prior to, or immediately following, a client’s Summer holiday can have a tremendous impact, by showing how much you care. A little research and preparation can make Summer networking even more powerful than usual.

4. Appreciate the need for patience and persistence. There is no question Summer brings with it a number of specific networking issues and corresponding opportunities. The lack of formal networking activities requires a clear focus on who to maintain contact with, especially in dealings with key contacts and centers of influence. This different mindset creates a need for innovative and insightful strategies that work around the limitations of the Summer business cycle. Above all, Summer networking demands a more patient attitude in accepting that for many people, family takes precedence over business for a short time as they benefit from work and life.

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Michael Hughes is known as THE Networking Guru. To find out more about him and receive a complimentary copy of his ebook “Managing the Networking Experience,” visit his web site at www.NetworkingForResults.com.

 

9 Summer Communication Strategies that Strengthen Relationships

building relationships, follow up, Networking as a marketing strategy, Networking for sales success, The seasons of networking No Comments

Summer can be frustrating and stressful when it comes to staying in touch with high-value connections and clients. Use these practical, proven strategies to maintain contact, stay in touch and leverage holiday absences into even stronger relationships.

1. Ask about holiday schedules during every client conversation. Prepare for the impact of the Summer holiday schedule by gathering information today. Listen for clues that indicate the urgency for the other person and ask about the impact for them and for others in their organization. You will be amazed at how helpful they will be when they realize your interest in their life.

2. Allow for more lead time in scheduling Summer contacts or important meetings. It is a fact of life that Summer brings with it delays and obstacles. The holiday season by its very nature can cause stress and sudden changes. Allow for this reality by creating a buffer in your scheduling and communication. Expect that others will need to change as events unfold. You will be seen as a positive influence during this difficult time.

3. Establish contact options for holiday periods. Luck has been defined as when preparation meets opportunity. Create your own luck over the Summer by preparing for the potential change in personnel. Develop the discipline of asking for contact options during holiday absences. Indicate that you will be contacting these people and ask your contact to communicate this fact to them. Make it a point to call the replacement to confirm they are aware of you. BONUS: You now have the opportunity to build a new relationship.

4. Use email/voice mail absence messages to stay updated on holiday schedules. Many people prepare for their holiday absences. Listen to holiday voice mail messages and take note of email absence messages. These may contain valuable information on options you can use to maintain contact or move forward. In fact, why not contact these people to start the communication process before a crisis occurs and use the opportunity to build a new relationship.

5. Make extra efforts to keep your contacts, colleagues and clients updated on all your holiday-related issues. (timing, options, issues). That’s right, the holiday communication discipline applies as much to you as others. Make sure you invest time to inform your most important clients and colleagues of holiday plans and the possible impact on their lives. You will be helping them by allowing them to better appreciate how the holiday season for you or others might affect their outcomes.

6. Schedule a call the week prior to holidays and focus strictly on holiday conversation as a relationship-building tool. Whether it relates to family, leisure or travel, the Summer holiday period is an important personal experience. You can enhance the quality of any relationship by investing time to call and ask about an upcoming vacation or check on the holiday plans. This issue is top of mind for most people at this time of year and they will love to chat about it.

7. Schedule a follow up call the week of a return from holidays and focus strictly on holiday conversation as a relationship-building tool. This is a great way to jumpstart your post-holiday communication. The satisfaction of an enjoyable holiday is easily rekindled by a conversation that reviews the highlights. Few people can resist answering the question “How was the holiday?”. As they relate their experiences, they quite naturally related all the good feelings to you.

8. Prepare at least two contingency options to deal with holiday-related problems. We all know that holidays will impact schedules and staffing. Why not accept that these things will happen and prepare options that will help overcome these obstacles? Chose your three best clients and brainstorm how their holiday schedules may affect you. Develop scenarios that will allow to deal with these perceived situations. Not sure how to handle them? Call your contacts and ask them to help. They will be happy to.

9. Be more persistent in your contacts and communications. You will be faced with unreturned phone calls, unopened emails and cancelled meetings. Sometimes you will even feel that others don’t care about you. Get over it. At this time of year, many issues come together to affect the lives of others. Be prepared that follow up messages will go longer with no return contact, expect that meetings and schedules will be affected and persist in your actions. Others will appreciate your efforts.

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Michael Hughes is known as Canada’s Networking Guru. To get more info about his services or to have him speak at your next meeting or conference, visit his web site at www.NetworkingForResults.com

6 Ways to Resurrect Networking During Summer

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Now that summer is in full swing, it’s easy to sit back and pretend that networking is non-existent until the business cycle re-awakens in the fall. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Summer networking can be quite effective when it’s utilized strategically. Here are practical, proven options that will keep your networking alive and working to build your business during these slower activity times.

1. Source networking groups that stay in operation. There are a number of organizations that continue to meet throughout the Summer months. Check with your contacts and clients to verify what networking activities they participate in, then ask if you can attend as a guest. You will find they will be pleased you asked and feel honored that you want to participate.

2. Create your own networking events. Just because the formal organization suspends its activities doesn’t mean you have to. Why not take a leadership role and get a few friends together for a Summer networking breakfast or lunch. On-going communication will allow you to confirm who is still around. Your friends and colleagues will appreciate your efforts and these activities will build additional trust.

3. Host a client appreciation event. Summer can be an excellent opportunity to create even more value for clients and colleagues by hosting an event that brings people together in a family or social environment. A family picnic or group Bar-B-Q can be wonderful ideas that strengthen both the personal and professional aspects of your relationships.

4. Develop a Summer activity that can substitute for formal networking. This time of year brings people together in any number of ways. If golf is not your activity of choice, why not research what other activities are available that may appeal to you and offer the chance to meet others. Whether you chose something as simple as a walking group, flag football or lawn bowling, there is probably an activity that matches your level of interest and involvement.

5. Use Summer community events/activities as networking opportunities. One of the easiest ways to maintain your networking mindset during the Summer is to leverage the increase in outdoor involvement in your community. Join a community association. Use Summer play days as opportunities to develop relationships. Expand your thinking about when and where to meet other parents or professionals.

6. Use holiday absences as opportunities to create new contacts as an extension of existing relationships or within company structure. This is one of the most overlooked opportunities of the Summer season. Holiday absences create the chance to connect with new contacts. Instead of seeing these changes as a hindrance, seize them as precious gifts that will allow to expand your information and contact base. Invest more time developing relationships with these new friends. They will appreciate your interest and become alternative options in the future.

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Michael Hughes is North America’s networking Guru. Want even more summer networking resources? Email Michael at info@NetworkingForResults.com to receive a complimentary copy of his ‘Summer Networking Strategies” Executive Summary.

Networking Tips From Santa’s Elves

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We’re back at the North Pole getting ready for the big day. However, this isn’t all we do. Most of our year is spent checking and cataloguing the good deeds that people do. Being good, you see, isn’t a one-day thing, it’s an all-year thing.

Santa wants us to keep track of who is nice so he can make sure and reward them. We thought we’d share our observations to help you not only stay on his “nice” list, but also increase your chances of getting that special gift.

Make new friends. We have found that reaching out to others isn’t something that comes naturally to most people. It takes courage and commitment. That’s why we score it high on our Santa’s List. We find that those who do seem to have more fun and get more done. Part of the human condition is to grow a network, so those who do it well and more often will always achieve better results.

Be nice. We know that the world can be tough and testy. Santa has asked us to be especially watchful for those who are extra-nice (being nice means being approachable, sincere and warm). We find that people who have these characteristics not only score higher on the Santa List, they also attract others and build strong relationships.

Play fair. This is one area that Santa wants us to pay special attention to. We’ve noticed that people can sometimes be very self-centered in their interactions and conversations. They don’t recognize or appreciate the value of others. Playing fair means accepting that others are just as important as you are; that’s why those who focus on it score higher on the Santa List.

Be helpful. We elves live to help. We know that helping others is the best way to get others to help you. We know people think of helping during the holidays, but we rate them on their contributions over the whole year. Those who score highest on the Santa List make contributing to others an on-going part of their attitude and their actions.

Make others feel special. This is a bonus area on the Santa List. People with this quality leave an impact on others and enrich their lives, even in a brief conversation. They have the ability and the willingness to put the entire focus of the interaction on the other person. They listen attentively, ask better questions and leave others feeling enriched simply by being with them.

Use these Santa List categories as guidelines to better connect, communicate and create meaningful relationships. That way, you’ll not only network more effectively, you’ll also score higher on your Santa List.

Michael Hughes is THE Networking Guru. Receive a FREE copy of his 13-page ebook Managing The Networking Process at www.NetworkingForResults.com

The Seasons of Networking

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The business environment has an ebb and flow that aligns with our social calendar. It’s important to recognize this and maximize a networking strategy that complements this natural cycle.

First Quarter (Jan/Feb/Mar)

This part of the annual cycle is a little slow out of the gate. Don’t expect much activity on an individual or group level for the first part of January. Most people, even the most successful professionals, seem to suffer from the “Christmas hangover” until mid-January. Groups generally shift into high gear during February, then hit a hiccup as the annual March Break hits. Most groups tend to meet before or after this short holiday period as many professionals and entrepreneurs schedule a holiday where it’s a little warmer. Keep this fact in mind as many marketing plans are delayed or go off-track because of this (seemingly) sudden obstacle.

Second Quarter (Apr/May/June)

The business cycle builds at this time of year. Most professionals increase their quantity and quality of networking activity during this three-month span. Networking groups move into high gear and membership attendance at functions is usually high. This timeframe also includes additional group activities such as trade shows, conferences and special events. This is an opportune time to create new contacts and leverage involvement through efforts such as group presentations or sponsorship of events.

 Third Quarter (July/Aug/Sept)

Many professionals hit the proverbial wall at this time of year. They are not prepared to shift gears as our society slows to a crawl in mid-June. Most networking groups shut down for the summer, the exception being a group bar-b-q or golf tournament. Most professionals will lose about a month of momentum in their business cycle: a week before they leave, gone two weeks then a week catching up when they get back. This mindset stays in place until the second week in September when everyone wakes up for the fall rush.

Fourth Quarter (Oct/Nov/Dec)

This is known as the “Golden Quarter” in the business world. It actually starts in mid-September when people come out of the summer doldrums. The focus is now on business until mid-December.  Networking groups work at full speed with many events and functions filling the calendar. Like the second quarter, there is usually a host of networking opportunities. This changes again in early December as most people begin their Christmas schedule. The talk again turns to personal issues and family agendas take over.

N.B.: Disregard this seasonal reality at your own peril. Learn from it, lean into it and leverage it for optimal results.

 Want to know more? Let’s chat. I can help. Contact me at info@NetworkingForResults.com

 

11 Golf Networking Strategies for Non-Golfers

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This is the time of year when networking transitions from formal events to a more informal environment. There has been much said about the value of golf as a summer networking strategy. But what about if you’re not a golfer? Here are some options to maximize the sport as a networking opportunity even if you’re not into it.

1.See the golf craze as a marketing opportunity. Golf is the fastest growing sport in the world. Look past your lack of interest and recognize that many of your clients and colleagues include golf as part of their Summer activities. By associating with their passion, you will be more visible and more accessible than the competition.

 2. Be prepared to talk golf. Invest some time to become more aware of the game and its components. That way you can use the sport as a topic of conversation without playing. You can also stay up to date with golf news. It is a hot Summer topic and will allow you to “talk shop” without having to play.

 3. Research the interest in golf within your target market. Invest time to confirm how many of your current clients, qualified prospects and important colleagues participate in golf-related activities or events. You may be amazed at how being associated with this sport can contribute to your ability to stay in contact  in the hard-to-contact Summer months.

4. Participate in organizing an existing tournament. Even non-golfers can benefit from golf by joining the efforts to organize an existing tournament. Most golf tournaments are geared to a specific charity or focus. Select one that fits your philosophy or your target market and offer to help. As most of these events are volunteer-driven, organizers will appreciate your offer and you will be favorably positioned with any participants you know (or want to know).

 5. Become a sponsor of an existing golf tournament. Make part of your research to discover what tournaments and golf-related events currently exist. There are sure to be lots around your area. Sponsoring all or part of a golf tournament is an excellent way to get in front of qualified prospects. This could be an excellent opportunity to promote products or meet hard-to-reach prospects. Many events will also give you access to their registration list as part of your sponsorship package.

 6. Create your own golf tournament. As a non-golfer, there is no better way to position yourself with your target market or with the community than to invest in organizing a golf tournament. Chose a charity to align with your event, approach your major clients and contacts to work with you and create a long term relationship that will put you in front of your most important contacts for most of the Summer. Most golf clubs have a tournament organizer who will be happy to work with you.

 7. Invest in a “hole” sponsorship. Last year a colleague who had a small consulting practice wanted to meet new prospects. He invested a small amount of money in sponsoring one hole and sat there during the day, meeting and chatting with every participant. He ran a contest and got two serious leads from his efforts, as well as a great tan.

8. Send a client/colleague/employee. Just because you don’t value golf, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t appreciate the value for others. Many tournaments support worthy causes and your investment may be tax-deductible. Chose the events that fit for you or your target market and make this investment part of your marketing budget. Then send someone you feel will enjoy it.

 9. Sponsor a foursome. Even if you don’t golf, you can endear yourself to top clients who golf by rewarding them with the opportunity to use their favorite sport to meet others. You can select who will make your foursome to maximize the leverage potential of this strategy. All parties will appreciate your efforts and will look for ways to return the favor. Most tournaments will also allow you to attend the meal that follows golf for a nominal fee and you can share in all the great golf stories and relationship-building.

 10. Use golf as an incentive. Why not use a registration at a well-known and respected golf tournament as an incentive for your staff, your friends or your suppliers? Purchase a place in advance of an upcoming tournament and use it to reward your top referral source. Run a contest for the employee who brings the most business through upselling. Send it to your main supplier as a thank you for his business. There are any number of ways to leverage a place at a golf tournament. Can you think of something now?

 11. Measure your efforts. Your golf marketing tactics can be one of your most effective Summer networking strategies. But the only way you will know you are successful is by setting specific objectives and measuring your results. Know who you want and need to stay in touch with and confirm you are using events that allow you to connect with these people. Establish a budget and review your return on investment at the end of the event or the Summer. Make sure you review and revise your activities for next season as golf will remain a mainstay of professional networking for years to come.

P.S.: want even more info on maximizing summer networking. Email me at info@NetworkingForResults.com to receive a complimentary copy of my Summer Networking Strategies executive summary.

A Valentine call to action: Carpe Diem!

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Who are you thinking about this Valentine’s Day: a loved (and loving) partner, a valued colleague or a significant person in your life? The Valentine’s Day “window” is a powerful reminder that relationships, especially personal ones, are core to our feelings of personal satisfaction, self-esteem and success.

This annual focus speaks to the power of “love”, but on a deeper level, it acts as a catalyst for validating and expressing the feelings that are the foundation of the deep and meaningful relationships in our lives. Here are five Valentine-focused strategies that can have a significant impact on those around you.

Realize the impact. The incredible power of Valentine’s Day lies in its reminder that love is all around us, and is expressed in any number of ways: deep personal relationships, intimate client partnerships, and inter-dependent professional connections. Take time to reflect and recognize who these people are and how they have impacted your life.

Express your feelings. This special day carries a window of opportunity to communicate your feelings of gratitude, so why not leverage the momentum and make it a point to tell others how you feel. Unless we share our feelings, others will not realize the importance they have or the contributions they have made. Do both yourself and those close to you a great service and tell them exactly how you feel and why. They will be pleasantly surprised.

Make a gesture. Sometimes words are not enough. If expressing yourself verbally is uncomfortable  (yes, I’m speaking to the men reading this), making a gesture can be even more powerful. Often, a personal note or special card can deliver a powerful message, without the embarrassment of a well-intentioned, yet fumbled few words. What gesture could you make that would show these special people in your life what they mean to you?

Deliver a gift. Valentine’s Day and gift-giving go hand-in-hand. In fact, there’s a whole economy around the formal part of this special occasion. This is probably the simplest and most effective way to show others in your life that you have special feelings about them. There’s a caveat though: make sure the gift matches the relationship. Without this link, the gesture holds little meaning and will have little or no value; it may even be misinterpreted.

Make it public. One of the most powerful ways to express deep feelings on this special occasion is to go public. We’ve all heard of public wedding proposals or seen them on Youtube. Every year, I buy corsages for each of the 4 special ladies in my life (mom, wife, daughter, daughter-in-law – and soon-to-arrive grand-daughter) and bring it to them at their place of work, so I can publicly and proudly demonstrate my love for each. What can you do to have a similar effect with your special Valentine(s) this year?

Michael Hughes is Known as Canada’s networking Guru. To get more info about him or have him speak at your next meeting or conference, visit his web site www.NetworkingForResults.com

 

Networking and The Cupid Factor

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From the desk of Michel J. Hughes North America’s Networking Guru. The approach of Valentine’s Day always revives the interest in, and the impact of, my good friend Cupid. For those of you who may unbelievably still be blissfully unaware, Cupid is a mythological winged cherub who acts as a catalyst for romance.

His escapades are well-documented. He surprises unsuspecting couples, stabbing them with his invisible, love-laced arrows. Once Cupid has awakened this emotion, the two parties involved see one another in a completely different light. Their mutual attraction is almost overwhelming. Is this a myth that we should simply discard, or is it fact? Let’s take a look at how life operates.

You attend a networking event. A conversation partner, whom you’ve been more or less  putting in time with until someone better comes along, mentions, almost offhandedly, that he has a strong connection with a prospect you really want to meet. Your attention snaps back to this person and you immediately see him in a different light; it’s almost as if you’ve been prodded in a “Cupid-esc” fashion to see the value in the other person.

You are about to leave your association’s monthly meeting, when a colleague you barely know approaches with another person in tow. She introduces her contact, adding some comments about an event that her conversation partner has mentioned. She is adamant about the urgency that the two of you connect, as she feels you have the perfect topic to present at their next conference. You look at her, shocked and overwhelmed by this unexpected act. Her “Cupid-esc” networking strategy has given you a sudden, incredible appreciation for her value, both as a professional and as a person.

I believe our friend Cupid is continually at work in our lives. This time of year brings to the surface the powerful effect the Cupid Factor has, when applied strategically. An unselfish act, done to support or strengthen a relationship, always leaves both people enriched. How can you put the Cupid Factor to work as you network in coming days and weeks?

  1. Increase your awareness of the Cupid Factor, and trust in its effect. You will immediately see opportunities that you never thought existed.

  2. Become a Cupid by consciously investing time and effort to discover whom others want and need to connect with as you network.

  3. Create networking “Cupid-esc” connections with others. Simply setting this principle in motion produces unexpected and unanticipated results, for yourself as well as your Cupid Factor targets.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Want to get more networking information and insights from Michael? Sign up for his FREE weekly email networking tip at his web site.

Networking on the golf course.

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From the desk of Michael Hughes, Canada’s Networking Guru. Golf is the fastest growing sport in the world. It is also accepted that more business deals are now consummated on the golf course than in the boardroom. It is an excellent networking tool when used properly. Here are some practical tips to convert your investment on the links into results in the boardroom.

Have clear, written objectives. Networking and golf go together but the success of your encounter will depend on your ability to know what you want to accomplish. Invest time to decide what information you want, or whether you just want to build the relationship. 

Know whom to invite. Make sure you know the expertise and expectations of those you’re golfing with. Organize you game and your attitude around that of your golf partners. How you handle yourself can greatly impact business.  

Respect the rules. Remember that as you get to see your clients in a more social environment, they also get to see you. Be on your best behavior as everything you say and do reflects your professionalism and integrity. 

About business. Don’t discuss business before the 5th hole or after the 15th. This gives everyone a chance to relax and get into the game before discussing business and to end with the focus on the game. A good finish can help the 19th hole confirm some business. 

Have a product positioning statement. Minimize wasted communication by having a short statement that identifies your target market, the top benefit of your product/service and the result of doing business with you. 

Avoid alcohol. It will not help your game and can lead to some deadly consequences. This is an opportunity for you to increase your professional image and improve your relationship. You need all of your wits about you. 

Know how to play ready golf. When it’s your turn to play, make sure you’re ready to hit. Most golfers are willing to play with just about anyone regardless of their skill level, as long as they don’t waste time on the course. 

Play the best golf you’re capable of. Some people believe in playing “customer golf”, allowing the customer to win by missing some obvious shots. This is insulting and can have disastrous consequences. Use the handicap system to even the competition. 

Play to the 20th hole. To make sure you get the maximum out of your golf networking experience, make sure you follow up with a card or call within 48 hours. You may receive an opportunity to have the favor returned with a business deal.

To get more information and insights into Summer Networking Strategies or to have Michael share his passion and expertise about Networking for Results, visit his web site or contact him directly at (888) 272-4794.

Networking and the Cupid Factor

The seasons of networking No Comments

From the desk of Michael J. Hughes, Canada’s Networking Guru

 

The approach of Valentine’s Day always revives the interest in, and the impact of, my good friend Cupid. For those of you who may unbelievably still be blissfully unaware, Cupid is a mythological winged cherub who acts as a catalyst for romance.

His escapades are well-documented. He surprises unsuspecting couples, stabbing them with his invisible, love-laced arrows. Once Cupid has awakened this emotion, the two parties involved see one another in a completely different light. Their mutual attraction is almost overwhelming. Is this a myth that we should simply discard, or is it fact? Let’s take a look at how life operates.

 

You attend a networking event. A conversation partner, whom you’ve been more or less  putting in time with until someone better comes along, mentions, almost offhandedly, that he has a strong connection with a prospect you really want to meet. Your attention snaps back to this person and you immediately see him in a different light; it’s almost as if you’ve been prodded in a “Cupid-esc” fashion to see the value in the other person.

You are about to leave your association’s monthly meeting, when a colleague you barely know approaches with another person in tow. She introduces her contact, adding some comments about an event that her conversation partner has mentioned. She is adamant about the urgency that the two of you connect, as she feels you have the perfect topic to present at their next conference. You look at her, shocked and overwhelmed by this unexpected act. Her “Cupid-esc” networking strategy has given you a sudden, incredible appreciation for her value, both as a professional and as a person.

 

I believe our friend Cupid is continually at work in our lives. This time of year brings to the surface the powerful effect the Cupid Factor has, when applied strategically. An unselfish act, done to support or strengthen a relationship, always leaves both people enriched. How can you put the Cupid Factor to work as you network in coming days and weeks?

-Increase your awareness of the Cupid Factor, and trust in its effect. You will immediately see 

 opportunities that you never thought existed.

-Become a Cupid by consciously investing time and effort to discover whom others want and need to

 connect with as you network.

-Create networking “Cupid-esc” connections with others. Simply setting this principle in motion

 produces unexpected and unanticipated results, for yourself as well as your Cupid Factor targets.

 

Happy Valentine’s Day.

 

Want to know about Networking For Results? Visit www.NetworkingForReuslts.com.

 

 

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