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Get FITTER at Networking

November 22, 2011

Heather Townsend, Britain’s queen of networking, helps professionals achieve business and career success using social media and networking. She is the author of the current best-selling book on networking The Financial Times Guide To Business Networking which has 68 five-star reviews on Amazon.

Here she tells us how to become FITTER at networking on the real business website.

I love Rob Brown’s quote, “when networking, don’t count conversations, make your conversations count”.

Time and time again, this is a problem when business owners network. Networking without a purpose – ie counting your conversations – is a waste of your precious time and money. Fact.

Very often, these people who go networking without a purpose trust that serendipity will bring them into conversation with the right people. While often pleasant, these conversations generally lead nowhere.

This is the very reason I devised The FITTER model. This is my own model, which I’ve developed over the last few years to train buiness 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.

I will explain how you can become FITTER at networking. To start, let’s look at the letter “F”, with “following-up”.

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’re likely to be able to help me meet my 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’re an A-lister, I will normally have requested permission for a follow up conversation when I actually speak 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.

When they think about first impressions, most people automatically think about meeting someone face-to-face for the first time. But these days they’re 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 actually meets you, they will have normally already have formed a first impression of you by looking at your online footprint.

Yes, your online footprint – but how many of us actively manage our personal online footprint? Unless you have an active content marketing strategy for your 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 and your business 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, and your business’s credibility?

If your profile isn’t up to scratch, read through these guides on improving your LinkedIn profile:

LinkedIn: What to put in your professional headline

10 ways to improve your visibility on LinkedIn

I’ve sorted out my LinkedIn profile, now what?

When you’re networking, it’s useless to just hope to meet the right people – you need a game plan in advance. Here’s the third tip of my FITTER networking plan:

Target specific people

Like most business owners, 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 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 just hope you’ll meet them at an event. It makes it ten times easier to enter a room full of strangers if you’ve already agreed to meet someone at the event.

A great way of making your networking more efficient is NOT to go prospecting for clients. Go looking for advocates and referrers for your business services. Someone who regularly recommends you and your business to their clients and customers is 100 times more valuable than one client or customer who may or may not recommend you to their friends.

Looking for more ways to generate referrals through networking?

14 ways to generate more referrals via business networking

It’s great to attend networking events, but there’s little point in being there if you just talk about social topics. Here’s how to turn social chat into business conversations:

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’re out meeting people. But l cannot emphasise this enough: when networking, you are not there to sell, you are there to build relationships.

It’s from these relationships that opportunities and business will flow.

Want to read more? Check these articles out, too:

Why business owners need to think of both online and offline networking

16 tricks to win business through networking clubs

You won’t get anything out of networking events if you don’t listen and engage with people. Here’s how.


How do I put this nicely? The best way to generate a relationship is to forget about you and your needs.

I’m sure that you’re an amazing and inspirational business owner, but you will have better quality (and ultimately more profitable) conversations if you focus 80 per cent of your energy on listening and finding out about the other person.

When you’re networking online, try to include questions that encourage people to comment and join in the conversation, too.


Your research will enable you to focus only on the events worth attending, but also which of the social networking sites, forums, groups and people will be most beneficial to you to meet or to re-connect with, as well as and good topics to talk about.

You wouldn’t write your marketing plan without an element of research, so why not research your networking choices properly. This includes the big decision level (“Should I use Twitter or join BNI?”), but also at the small decision level (“Should I attend this event?”).

So next time you think about going out to network, make sure that you give yourself an effective work out by putting the FITTER model through its paces!

Try the model out at BNSW, see if you can get FITTER at networking!

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