An effective and inexpensive marketing tool that has been around for decades is networking. Do we have the skills to network effectively? Not everyone knows the “right” way to network which is the purpose of this BLOG. Networking events rarely ever get boring when you mix together all the ingredients of the secret sauce.
So what’s the secret sauce for social networking success by businesses? There are lots of ingredients to throw into the mix. Here are a few to consider that truly make networking work.
Be Empathic. Empathy which literally translates as in feeling, is the capability to share another being’s emotions and feelings. It is the ability to put oneself into the mental shoes of another person to understand their emotions and feelings. Empathy is about spontaneously and naturally tuning into the other person’s thoughts and feelings, whatever they might be.
Take baby steps at first. Connect to people you already know well. Be patient and persistent. Take the time to look up old contacts. When you add one contact to your network you have the possibility of networking with the important people that they know. The best meetings for networking are the ones your clients and referral sources go to. Develop an inexhaustible determination to learn as much as you can about business networking and do it consistently! if you need to. . . call a coach.
Develop your network before you need it. Harvey Mackay once said, “Dig a well before you’re thirsty.” Be willing to share and connect, but only once you know someone’s intentions. Once you have an established, genuine relationship with someone, help them to dig their own well too.
Be who you really are! Be real. Be yourself. People will respect that and it will allow you to grow your network more quickly because you’ll be more comfortable. People buy people. They will be the ones who will do business with you (in the future) when they know your best foot forward is connected to the real you.
Gratitude. Develop an attitude of gratitude. Be grateful when someone offers to help you connect with someone else or gives you a business lead.
Resist the urge to sell at a network event. Just network. No squeeze plays! Sales are made on the back end. Rarely ever on the first meeting, especially at a large networking event. The majority of people who don’t know any better than to try to sell have failed miserably in closing and seem to wonder why. Those who continue to try and make this happen come to the conclusion that networking simply doesn’t work.
Stay Focused. Why are you networking and who do you want to meet? You better know this before you attend a networking event otherwise your results will be scattered and disappointing.
Ask lots of questions and “really” listen to the answers. It’s true that the person asking the questions is in control of the conversation. I’m not talking about manipulation. I’m talking about digging for the information you need to determine if the person you are talking with is someone you want to continue to build a relationship with. It is the conversation that helps you understand the other person, their interests, and challenges. Often information we take for granted can be valuable to someone else in our network. Master the art of “small talk” and talk and listen in equal measure! One of the best questions to ask is, “How can I help you?” Make sure you focus on the other person.
Give up being shy. You are only shy because you THINK you are. Break out of you box. There is no room for shyness in networking. Put yourself out there. It’ll give your networking some teeth. Networking does not have to be something you dread. If you shudder just thinking about it, I challenge you to start networking as soon as possible. Pick a small event where you know most of the people and feel relatively comfortable. Make a firm commitment to yourself that you are going to overcome shyness no matter what it takes.
Face-to-face networking. Is a Social Media friend really a friend? Can you really develop the kind of relationship that you can when you meet someone at a networking event? I think not. Face to face networking is an inexpensive way to meet new people. It’s also the best way. Social networking via the internet, including Facebook, LinkedIn, and MySpace, seem to be the latest craze. I use them too, but each for different reasons. Time and time again, face to face networking has been more successful in bringing together many new contacts and business opportunities for professionals in all kinds of businesses. You need a real-time face-to-face presence which makes it more likely to receive tangible results from your connections.
Make time to meet new people each week. When you meet a new contact, take your time getting to know them. Building relationships take time. Fast friendships usually fizzle out.
Give more than you take! Help others in whatever way you can with a valuable contact, a key networking event, or a worthwhile association. Give without any expectation. Offer to help others. It proves you’re a team member and you are in it for the long-term. Networking is not just about getting “leads,” it’s also about helping others.
Place quality over quantity. Put your emphasis on the quality of the referral and not the quantity. Ultimately, you want to give high quality referrals. You’ll know when lead/referrals are quality ones because everyone involved will be sharing resources, good information, and adding ideas.
Overcome reluctance to “ask a stranger” for help. When I attend a networking event, I always ask the leader of the group for introductions to people who they know that might be someone I need to know. After the introduction, if we both feel comfortable with each other, I may ask for help. Or, I may choose to meet with them again outside of the meeting to become more familiar with their work to see if we can mutually help each other.
Volunteer. If possible, volunteer to work the sign-in or registration table. Everyone attending the event will probably sign-in, collect a name tag, etc., so you will get a chance to see who’s attending and speak with them for a moment or two.
Reciprocity is important. Not always possible, but important to at least do your best to reciprocate if someone offers a business lead, suggestion or tip.
Relationship building. It takes time to build trust and rapport and earn referrals. Lots of time. This may be the thing that finally teaches you patience. When you first start networking it feels like all your doing is planting seeds. Always remember to go back and water them. Remember the best networkers focus on building relationships. This means you have to make time to connect and engage in order to reap your rewards. Allow time for the membership in your networking group to get to know you.
Accountability. Be accountable for your actions. Study networking. Watch how others network. I’m convinced most people haven’t developed the right skills for networking. Be sure you have learned the collaborative etiquette of networking!
Be a connector! Connectors collect people. Not literally, but they enjoy meeting and learning about people. Connectors like to introduce people who they think will benefit from meeting each other.
Be selective about the networking groups you attend. For some people networking events are like fishing ponds. They go there to fling the proverbial business card in your face and collect business cards and try to hawk their wares. They are all about themselves. Not good. It pays to be very selective where you network. Attend the ones with a high probability of “face time” with individuals who should know about your potential value to them. Groups should fit your personality. My main networking is done through groups whose meetings are roughly 50% social and 50% business. They seem to be the groups where you get more return on your investment (ROI) of time spent networking. Your return on investment is a meaningful dialogue that creates measurable value. The tribe you select will have a profound impact on your work and life, so choose well. Don’t spread yourself too thin. A rookie mistake is to try and join too many groups.
Work the room and get to know the movers and shakers. What does that mean? Just what it says. Mingle efficiently and be politely inquisitive. Start and maintain meaningful conversations. Be sure your body language sends the signal that you are approachable.
Collaboration is an absolute must! None of us can succeed on our own. Collaboration is a recursive process where two or more people or organizations work together with common goals – for example, an intellectual endeavor that is creative in nature – by sharing knowledge, learning and building consensus with one another.
Bring your business cards. I once ran out of business cards at an event and decided to leave. On the way out, I ran into someone who I thought might be a good contact. We had brief conversation and she gave me her business card. I reached for my money clip and gave her a $1 dollar bill with my Website stamped in red ink on the border. She still talks about this whenever I see her again. Never run out! I have my business cards everywhere; in my wallet, in my planner, in my car, in my computer bag, and my briefcase. SideNote: One year as I gave out candy to kids on Halloween, I tossed a business card in their sack. 😉
Follow-up. Get the business card of everyone you met who you feel will be a good contact for you and immediately write three things on the back: 1. The date, 2. The place, and 3. What you talked about. As you leave the meeting, send a text message to the people you met, saying how nice it was to see them. Follow-up with a “glad to meet you” email, and point them to a link of useful information. Make it worthwhile for the other person to stay in touch with you. The best time to be in contact is when you don’t need anything. Build rapport by sending a short e-mail or calling to say “hello” every so often. Let them know you have no agenda. This will keep your name at the top of their list should they have a business opportunity. The rewards may not be immediately apparent, but patience and persistence eventually pay off.
Smile. Wear a happy face. People like to associate with people who have a cheery attitude. If you’ve had a bad day. . . don’t tell your face! 😉
Become an expert at networking. Networking is a “learned” skill. It’s not something you get right the first time you do it. No one gets a free pass. Everyone has to put the “work” in networking in order to get positive results. Observe. Attend several networking events as an observer. Watch the pros at work. Read all of the networking articles on this BLOG.
YOU! What you bring to the table is an important ingredient to effective business networking. Think you know how to network? Your attitude plays an important role.
Be quietly compelling! Know your stuff. Speak it well. Plan your introduction to others so that it raises their curiosity about who you are and what you do and how you might be able to help them. Polish your “elevator speech” – your 30-second connection – a summary of what you do-in clear, compelling words that attract attention, pique curiosity, and create a strong and positive statement of who you are. Elevator speeches are NOT supposed to be sales pitches!
Another of the secret ingredients to long-term networking is not figuring out what works – it’s figuring out how to keep things working when conditions change. . . like the economy. If you are being hammered by your competition and you feel powerless to stop a change that’s working against you, perhaps it’s time to think “outside of the box” and organize a small group with others who can sit with you and be a resource of ideas and moral support.
The “Secret Sauce” of networking is that special “something ” that separates the casual networker from the networking pro. What is the secret sauce?
The secret sauce or the most important ingredient in business networking is building long-term, mutually beneficial relationships!
Now. . . put these ingredients into your networking pot and get ready for something EXTRAordinary!
Copyright © 2010 – Larry James. Larry James is a Professional Speaker, Author and Coach. He presents networking seminars nationally and “Networking” coaching by telephone or one-on-one. His latest book is, Ten Commitments of Networking: Creative Ways to Maximize Your Personal Connections! 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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