I always say that networking is a long term investment. You stay in touch for a whole bunch of reasons, not least of which you keep some great people in your life. But rarely do you get an "instant win". But it does happen. And when times are tough, perhaps the best way to uncover rare opportunities is to speak to as many people as possible, as often as possible.
I'll give you two recent examples of this in action. The first generated over $100k in business and the second, well, I'll let you know.
Example one. I was out for drinks early in the year at Riverland in Melbourne with my partner and a friend of his over from the UK. The UK friend brought another friend and it turns out the boys all knew each other from the "old days" at a major tech company. Anyway, I did what I usually do on meeting knew people - ask questions to get to know them, try and find common ground to make for an interesting conversation. So I was chatting to the local friend and he was telling me how he was about to move to the UK, leaving his current job which was very busy. I asked some more questions. His current job was as CFO at a major sporting organisation. I asked some more questions. Turns out they had been implementing this major software project and were unhappy with the current vendor for the next stage of the project, so were stressed out looking for another vendor. I asked a few more questions. Long story short, my partner's company offered what they needed. I told him, his people talked to their people and a couple of months of contract negotiations later, both parties had been helped out and they were in business. (Sadly, I didn't get a commission on the sale, but we did get a very nice dinner out on my partner's employer!)
Example two: I have two days a week available that I use to work on marketing or event client work that's project based. My current project ( Professional eBay Sellers Alliance conference - bet you didn't know they existed!) finishes up mid August. For once, I didn't have something immediate in the wings. So I decided to tap into my network. I caught up with a few friends, over a few drinks (yes, bars do seem to be a recurring theme, networking has more than one upside!) and asked if they knew anyone who needed marketing or events assistance. Inside of two weeks, I had was not only updated on my friend's lives, I had a meeting set about some new work that could run till April next year.
I have yet to have the meeting, but even if I don't suit the opportunity, it's a great case in point of my favourite mantra....IF YOU DONT ASK, YOU WONT GET. Ask a lot of questions in conversations and best case scenario, you'll learn more about the person you're conversing with, enjoy a sense of connection and maybe discover something new.
So whilst times are tough in this (dare I say it) GFC, that doesn't mean there is no opportunities to be had, no income to to be earned, no business to be won. It just means you may have to try harder to get it AND tap into the people you already know (your network) to identify those many hidden opportunities.
[Added 1 August: Thought you might like to know I got the new client, as mentioned in example 2, always handy when you're own examples pan out!]