If you’re not really sure you know the “ins and outs” of business networking, don’t pretend to know. That just makes you look stupid. Do everything you can to learn all you can before you jump in the deep end of the networking pool.
Read networking books from those who have learned the fine art of networking and are willing to pass along their secrets. “Ten Commitments of Networking: Creative Ways to Maximize Your Personal Connections!” is a great book to start with. Bob Burg’s, “The Go-Giver: A Little Story About a Powerful Business Idea” is another great networking book. Many more networking books are available in my book store.
Attend networking seminars and workshops. Pay attention at the networking meetings you attend. Observe others who are outgoing and are wearing a smile. Hire a networking coach. Do a Google search for “business networking BLOG” and begin your studies. (The word “business” helps a little to distinguish between IT networking and the kind of business networking I am talking about). Most of all, continue to work on you. Your own personal development is of utmost importance to your business success.
Do you spend time TALKING about networking and never seem to get around to it? Get out of your pajamas, walk out the door and do it anyway. Staying in your comfort zone will get you nowhere.
A commitment to progress in learning networking skills is important. Most successful networkers are not born that way. They learn the skills of networking, because they know that the rewards will be increased business and connections that will help them build their business. The rewards for networking can be enormous!
You may say, “But it takes so much time and that’s something I have little of.”
Oh, really? You have all the time there is. It’s what you decide to do with it that will make the difference in your life. If networking is so hard to do and takes so much time, why invest the time and effort? Because it really works! Believe me, learning the skills for effective networking is worth the time and energy it requires. I am where I am today because of business networking!
Effective networking does take time. You need to attend meetings, connect with people over lunch or after work and carve precious minutes out to talk to them on the phone or e-mail them one at a time.
Networking is one of the most valuable and inexpensive forms of marketing. Networking is a skill that can be learned. Many successful business owners are master networkers who can walk into a room full of strangers, make a connection and handily attract a new client, partner or investor.
If you feel nervous about entering a room full of strangers at a networking event you’re not alone. One survey showed that about 75 percent of people feel uncomfortable at business and social events.
Business networking should consume about 75% of your marketing time and budget, according to Tom Peters, author of In Search of Excellence. Make lots connections with people. Think of every place you go as an opportunity to meet people.
Too shy or self-conscious to schmooze?
“Your ability to be intimate with others is the core of networking,” says Ken Ferrazzi, author of “Never Eat Lunch Alone.” “Shy people know at their core that they’re lonely and long for more intimacy. They just don’t have the courage and the confidence to achieve it.”
Take the initiative and brush up on your conversational skills. Always be learning about things that can help you when you network. Many people find it difficult to strike up a conversation with a complete stranger just to expand their business network. People who are shy and self-conscious tend to be a lot more open and talkative when they’re doing or talking about something they’re deeply interested in. Ask lots of questions. The person who is asking the questions is in charge of the conversation. Become a better listener. Ask a question and then be quiet until you hear the answer.
The most successful networkers are charismatic people who make the person they’re speaking to feel special. Look other people in the eye, really listen to what they have to say and guide them to topics they want to talk about.
Strengthen your existing connections. Begin with familiar faces; the people you know. Getting in touch with old friends, distant relatives, and people you went to school with can be a good stepping stone because you’re reaching out, but you’re not approaching complete strangers. Get involved in the committees of your favorite organization, or volunteering. Make sure the networking group you attend has a “community presence.”
As you continue to network, you’ll find that some people are much better at it than you are. At networking events look for the extroverts. They already know everyone and will be the ones most liking to help you learn the skills needed to be more successful at networking. Ask for introductions to other successful networkers and business people. Remember there’s nothing phony, lame or desperate about asking for assistance. Never apologize when asking for a favor or help. It can signal a lack of confidence and professionalism.
In the course of networking, you may encounter people who can’t or won’t want to help you. Don’t take it personally and don’t dwell on it. It’s all part of the process. Some people are completely clueless about networking and are protective of their so called business secrets. They have yet to realize that networking is about sharing ideas and “helping others help themselves.” Silently shout, “Next!” and move on.
When you meet someone new, say their name (out loud) in conversation. People like to hear their own name. Dale Carnegie once said, “A person’s name is the sweetest sound to that person.” So when you meet someone, as you talk with them, use their name often. This is the first step in remembering names. Doing so also makes the other person feel more comfortable, like you really know them and they know you.
Remember to thank your networking partner immediately after they offer help and confirm that you will stay in touch. Few people actually do this. Saying, “Thank you” will help you stand out and be remembered. Send a note or send an e-mail but always say thank you.
Read: “How to Network With Busy People” by Steve Pavlina.
Copyright © 2010 – Larry James. Adapted from Larry’s latest book, Ten Commitments of Networking: Creative Ways to Maximize Your Personal Connections! Larry James is a Professional Speaker, Author and Networking Coach. He presents networking seminars nationally and “Networking” coaching by telephone or one-on-one. Something NEW about Networking is posted on this Networking BLOG every 4th day! Visit Larry’s Networking Website at: “Networking HQ!”
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