When you are at an event with new people, how effective are you at making relevant and memorable connections? I have to admit that I have a lot to learn to be a more effective networker. That’s why when I met Hazel M. Walker last month I was wowed by her introduction and her energy. Her personal introduction in a group of 25 professionals was by far the most memorable. My awe of Hazel doesn’t end there, the book she co-authored, Business Networking and Sex, not what you think, also caught my attention – It is about gender and networking.

Hazel is a networking pro, a BNI franchise owner (over 1500 members!), and a first-class lady. Her focus on helping people network more effectively to build their business and reputation makes it easier for the rest of us.

I asked Hazel to share some wisdom with my readers and following are tips on how to manage your database to Strengthen your Network.

The most valuable thing you own is your database, to keep it valuable you have to treat it like a garden, constantly maintaining it.  Adding people to it, updating contacts, and purging people from it.  Just like a garden you need to take a few minutes each week and do some maintenance.

It is also very important that your database be sortable.  Clients, Contacts, Referral Sources, Family, Friends.  I encourage my clients to categorize people using the VCP Model.

Visibility – these are people you have a very weak relationship with. You might remember their name but little beyond that.

Credibility – these are people who you know, like and have some level of credibility or trust with.  The longer you know someone the deeper the credibility may be.  In this phase of a relationship you can ask people to connect or refer you.

Profitability – this phase is the one you have with people who are willing to refer business to you on a consistent and high level.  It is important that you know who is in your profitability relationships so that you are able to reciprocate.  This is the most valuable level in your database.

Most business people find that they have a whole lot of visibility in their network but less high level credibility or profitability.  Your goal is to work your network, instead of doing more networking. Once you have your database sorted you will be more effective at your future networking activities.

Everyday spend a little bit of time asking yourself the following questions about the contacts in your database.

1.  Who is this person?
2.  Where did I meet them?
3.  When was the last time that I had contact with this person?
4.  Is the information current or up to date?
5.  Do I want to reestablish contact with this person?
6.  Do I need to know this person?
7.  Can I personally use their service or refer their service?
8.  Why is this person in my database?
9,  Is this person a source of information or possible referrals source?
10.  Do I keep them in the database or toss them out?

Now you can start adding new people to your database and have them updated and categorized from the beginning. Nurture your network when you don’t need it and it will be there for you when you do need it.

Schedule 15 minutes a week to work on your contact database, start with the A’s and work your way thru.  Remember the easiest way to eat an elephant, is one small piece at a time.  In small chunks of time, you can get the job done.

A bit more about Hazel Walker:

Hazel has spent 20 years teaching every type of business owner and sales person how to put systems around their networking activities so that they are consistently generating more referrals. Over the years she realized that how she coached men and women were very different. Her book is based on a 12,000 person survey that took 3 years to complete and one year to write. From Wall Street to countries around the world, Business Networking and Sex has been embraced and read by thousands of business professionals.  Hazel works with organizations helping them to build the bridge between the sexes and takes them from where they are to where they want to be.

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Last week I ‘managed my database’ and eliminated some irrelevant contacts. When my newsletter was distributed, it went to less people (gasp!) than previous…but my results? Less undelivered and a higher percentage of opens! Guess relevant and engaged contacts are better!

What have you done to manage your database and strengthen your network?