“Top 10” Tips
The concept of business networking often gets a bad rap, conjuring up images of insincere schmoozers doling out flattery and business cards in an attempt to do an on-the-spot hard-sell of their product or services.
The reality is that the most effective business networking is based upon a desire to build genuine, long-term relationships with individuals and organizations. Business writer Scott Ginsberg defines business networking as “the development and maintenance of mutually valuable relationships”. These relationships are established slowly, over time, and involve basic values of trust, integrity, and respect.
Networking opportunities come in many forms and truly can happen at any time and place. People network to make new friends, meet future clients, find a job, develop their current career, explore new career options, obtain referrals or sales leads, or simply to broaden their professional horizons by gaining insights and understanding.
Undoubtedly, networking plays a significant role in the success of businesses and individual careers. Simply put, people want to work with—and help—people they know, like, and trust.
Here is a “Top 10” list of tips for the next time you find yourself amidst a potential networking opportunity.
1. Business networking is a marathon, not a sprint. Approach networking opportunities with the goal of building rapport for the long-term, not making an instant sale. For that reason, as Ginsberg advises, don’t wait until you are “thirsty” to start “digging the well.”
2. Realize that networking involves taking initiative to be active in organizations, approach people, introduce yourself, and strike up conversations. Don’t sit one-on-one with someone you know at an event all evening and expect to make multiple business contacts.
3. Approach others with the goal of getting to know them and to learn about their work. Ask open-ended questions and show genuine interest in what they have to say.
4. Listen more than you speak. In How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie tells of sitting at a dinner party next to a botanist who talked for hours about his plants and experiments, while Carnegie listened intently. At the end of the evening, the botanist turned to the host and praised Carnegie as a “most interesting conversationalist.”
5. Look for connections with people. Think if there is someone you know who might be able to help this person grow their business or career, and offer to assist in making those connections. Think in terms of “How can I help?” not “What can I get?”
6. Have a genuine, positive, and professional demeanor. Gossipy comments or off-color humor can leave a lasting bad impression.
7. Have your “elevator intro” prepared, i.e., to be able to state in a compelling 10-15 seconds what it is that you do.
8. Practice impeccable follow-up, particularly if you have promised to provide someone a document, resource, or other information. Mention in your follow-up something memorable from your conversation.
9. If you do request a follow-up meeting with the individual you’ve met, be highly respectful of their time. Never enter a meeting assuming you are that person’s top priority for the day!
10. Find ways to give back to groups and individuals who have helped you establish and develop your business or career. Be generous in your recognition of the role they’ve played in your success.
–Brenda Clark Hamilton, MA Ed.