Networking. So many people need to network and so few actually do network. My broker would call it "lead generation" but it's more than that - it's about generating knowledge and helping people, not just about getting business.
Recently one of my top clients said "so how did you get to this property before it hit the market?" and my response was:
"I know a commercial banker, from my insurance days, who had a client he wanted me to talk to, who knew another real estate agent. I called the other agent regarding another client's needs, who remembered I worked a lot in a specific area, and he mentioned he had this property coming up. I thought of you, as I know you are working in the area, and so I called and signed you up as a client, and put this together." My "top client" was shaking his head at this "chain" of networking and he seems to appreciate me a bit more after hearing the story. I gained the "inside" knowledge about an upcoming property and was able to gain a client.
So why is networking about knowledge and helping others? I look at meeting people as the opportunity to learn something, and in return, the chance to potentially help someone. In some cases - I have been blessed with the gift of a long-time friendship. And yes - I network for business - but by putting these other priorities first, it makes the business part very easy to do, and here's why:
Knowledge: Dictionary.com has several different definitions of knowledge, my favorite being: "the body of truths or facts accumulated in the course of time." In order to be successful in your endeavors in life, don't you need to be useful? How can you be useful if you don't know your stuff? Meeting people and learning about their business or personal interests is an exceptionally fast way to gain knowledge. Most folks enjoy telling you about their business and interests - shut up and listen to them, let them talk, and gain knowledge. My husband is a master at listening and watching - he does not talk much about himself, but rather enjoys listening to others and learning things along the way.
Helping Others: A lot of sales people are "guarded" about their knowledge and expertise. It's very understandable - they have worked hard to make their contacts and learn their business and many were not helped along the way. But to give is to receive - giving a little bit of one's self can encourage others to give of themselves, thus creating an exchange. Sure - there will be times when you give and you don't receive - oh well. Take the high road and give a little and see what happens.
Understand Expectations: When you do offer your knowledge or expertise to others - do it without the expectation of "receiving". If you do things solely with the expectation of "receiving" - you will always be disappointed. If you really want something from a prospect or client or business partner, just ask - and then look for a way to give them something of value in return.
Networking is not rocket science. Based on Myers-Briggs personality tests, some personality types will have a harder time with it than others. Not everyone is a natural ENFJ - but you don't have to be to be successful at networking. You'll just have to be more diligent and methodical about networking, making a concious effort to make connections of value.