“The currency of real networking is not greed but generosity. – Keith Ferrazzi”
Networking goes hand in hand with running a successful business. But many of us dread walking into a room and introducing ourselves to strangers. Networking is a skill and the good news is – it can be developed. It is a necessary part of business life, and is very rewarding when meaningful connections are made. The focal point is about making sincere connections and building relationships based on generosity.
- Prepare & Practise - It is important to do your homework before attending events. Have an elevator pitch created. Pick 3-4 conversation starters about topics you enjoy. This will make it easy to start conversations and show your passions & interests. It is important to do your homework before attending events.
- Smile - It’s a simple, rule of engagement. By smiling, you’ll put your nervous self at ease, and you’ll also come across as relaxed and inviting to others. Remember to smile before you enter the room, or before you start your next conversation. And if you’re really dreading the event – check the negative attitude at the door.
- Have a plan. Savvy networkers always have an idea of what the goal is for each event. Know, beforehand, what the outcome is that you want for yourself at each event. Do you want to meet 3 people and focus on getting to know them really well? Are you looking for an introduction to a certain type of client? Are you looking for information or connections that will get you that information? When you have a plan, it is easier to stay focused and achieve your expected outcome. It also helps you to keep on track to help others in achieving their goals when you remind yourself to be generous with your own knowledge and connections.
- Resist the urge to arrive late. It’s almost counter-intuitive, but showing up early at an event is a much better strategy than getting there late. When you’re early, you’ll notice it’s calmer and quieter – and people won’t have settled into groups yet. It’s easier to find people to have conversations with.
- Networking is about Relationship Building. Networking is about creating meaningful connections with people. You should be thinking about how you can help them, as well as how they can help you. Figure out how you can be helpful. This can be done as simply as offering to someone “let me know if I can help you out at any stage”. Yes, it’s THAT simple. Reciprocity goes a long way; Think ‘win-win’.
- Ask easy questions. Don’t wait around for someone to approach you. To get the conversation started, simply walk up to a person or a group, and say, “May I join you” or “What brings you to this event?”
- Listen with focus. When someone is speaking, give that person your entire focus. LISTEN. Really hear what they are saying. Keep your eyes and ears focused and keep your self-talk and thoughts focused too. The greatest gift that you can give to another person is to truly hear what that person is saying. You’ve seen this before and it’s worth repeating: you have 1 mouth and 2 ears for a reason. Listen twice as much and you will have a real impact.
- Don’t Sell. The savvy networker knows that the immediate sale of a product is not the goal in networking. Keep your exchange fun, light and informal – you don’t need to do the hard sell within minutes of meeting a person. The idea is to get the conversation started. People are more apt to do business with people whose company they enjoy.
- Share your passion. Win people over with your enthusiasm for your product or service. Leave a lasting impression by telling a story about why you were inspired to create your company. Talking about what you enjoy is often contagious, too. When you get other people to share their passion, it creates a memorable two-way conversation.
- Don’t hijack the conversation. The most successful networkers – think of those you have met are good at making other people feel good. Be a conversationalist, not a talker.
- Business Cards - Keep them to hand. They are a great way for people to remember you – and to follow up. When someone gives you their card, say their name out loud. This will help you remember the name, whilst at the same time puts the other person at ease. People love hearing their own name, it makes them think you know each other that little bit better.
- Remember to follow up. Networking is where the conversation begins, not ends. If you’ve had a great exchange, ask your conversation partner the best way to stay in touch i.e. email, phone LinkedIn. Get in touch within 48 hours of the event to show you’re interested and available, and reference something you discussed, so your contact remembers you.
What are your best networking tips?
If you would like to know more email me on email@example.com or keep in touch through twitter @marylcronin @thousandseeds.