Michelle Villalobos (vee – ya – low – bos), Guest Author
Question: What do you call it when someone hands you a business card before you’ve even had a chance to speak?
Answer: “Premature Solicitation!”
If you network at ALL then I’m sure you’ve met this guy… the guy that walks up to a group of people and hands out his business card like he’s dealing blackjack. And I’ll bet you’ve rolled your eyes and thought (I’m definitely NOT calling THAT guy). Eeeeew.
Bad networking is bad news.
Despite the annoying parts, networking (the right way) has truly transformed my business. It has directly translated into revenues by generating new readers for this newsletter, traffic to our events, and a viral, word-of-mouth effect that has grown our email list into the several thousands in just over a of year!
Unfortunately, while I’m out there, I experience lots of wimpy handshakes, over-eager salespeople, lack of eye contact, rudeness, close talking, bad breath, failure to follow up (which, by the way, the MAJORITY of people who network admit to)… and more. Ugh.
But there’s hope! Here’s a little secret: when I started “networking” (I use the term loosely), I was terrible at it.
I used to walk into events terrified of meeting new people, I’d immediately find and cling to people I already knew – the entire night (poor them). I used to hand out my business card with abandon, try to sell people on what I was offering right there and then, and I used to follow up, well, let’s just say sporadically.
What I overlooked was that trust is at the core of strong business relationships, and trust takes time to build. That said, it begins the moment you meet someone – sometimes before.
Here are some of my favorite networking do’s and DON’Ts to quickly build like and rapport, so you’re on your way to building trust and turning all that hand-shaking into deal-making.
I’ve also linked to the full-length audio from Stop Drowning in Business Cards, about how to turn all those business CARDS you’ll gather into BUSINESS.
1. Check your attitude. When you walk into an event, make sure you’re in a great mood. I always play a song that pumps me up in my car before I go in. (A great pick-me-up: “Send Me On My Way” by Rusted Root.)
2. Make MORE eye contact. Sustained eye contact generates immediate feelings of like and trust. Try to hold eye contact for a few seconds longer than you’re comfortable with, and watch what happens… It’s amazing.
3. Wear a name tag if one is offered, and wear it on the right side, not the left (it makes it more conspicuous when you shake hands).
4. A good, firm handshake is essential for BOTH men and women. Women should never use the dainty “fingertip handshake” in business.
5. When shaking hands (firmly, of course), make sure that your palm is perpendicular to the floor. Palm up is a sign of submission and palm down implies you are dominant. The very nature of a handshake is to connote equality and balance. Make sure that’s what you’re doing.
6. Almost everyone feels out of place and awkward at a networker. You can use this to your advantage by acting like a host/hostess and introducing people to each other. People are usually grateful for the help.
7. When someone you know greets you while you’re talking to someone else (or in a group), always introduce the new arrival to the person (or people) you were talking to.
8. We all forget a name now and then. If it happens to you, just apologize and ‘fess up rather than ignore an introduction. “I’m so sorry, I keep wanting to call you Penelope because you remind me of my college roommate, Penelope, but I know that’s not your name…” People are usually not offended because it happens to them too!
9. When you do forget a name, laugh it off but don’t insult yourself, for example: “must be my Alzheimer’s” (especially if you’re older) or “blame my ADD” (especially if you’re young). These seemingly innocuous statements reinforce stereotypes and plant negative thoughts about your skills or qualifications.
10. Focus on who you’re speaking with, don’t let you eyes wander.
11. Put away your handheld (BlackBerry, iPhone) when talking to someone. Otherwise, the message you’re sending is: “Anyone who has my email address or my phone number is more important to me than you, even though you are right in front of me.”
12. If you must take a call, excuse yourself first and then do it. For example: “I’m sorry but I’ve been waiting for this call all day and I have to take it.” Then walk to a quiet, more secluded area to speak.
13. When talking with a group, distribute eye contact evenly. It’s human nature to focus on people we like, but often we inadvertently focus on one person to the exclusion of others. People notice this – even if only on a subconscious level.
14. Even if you’re a salesperson, don’t launch into a sales pitch upon meeting! LISTEN FIRST. People do business with people they like, so establish trust and rapport first, you can sell later.
15. What you can do is nail down your “elevator pitch” (actually I prefer “elevator teaser”) which is a quick and intriguing response to the question “What do you do?”
16. In your teaser, focus on the benefits (results) you provide rather than the features (process) of your business. For example, instead of saying: “I’m a personal trainer,” you could say: “I help people look better naked.” (yes, I stole that from David Barton Gym)
17. Don’t talk too much. If you tend to dominate conversations, practice asking questions.
18. Avoid using qualifiers that belittle what you do. For example, words like “only,” “try” or “just” have no place when you’re describing your business. As in “I just try to help companies with their computer needs,” or “I’m only a part-time teacher.” Lose the weak words and stick with the rest.
19. Take care to not “one-up” people. I know it’s difficult when someone tells a story and you have a better one, but at the very least, let them finish theirs and then offer yours – with references back to their story to show you were listening. (“I know how you felt, something similar happened to me once and the experience also made me…”)
20. Keep moving. Even if you’ve met someone great, remember that they may want to meet other people. If the rapport is strong and the opportunity promising, make plans to see each other again.
21. If you’re worried about offending someone by leaving them, a great way to move on is to say: “I’ve truly enjoyed talking with you and I’d like to pursue this conversation further – but there are some other people I need to speak with. May I have your card so I can follow up?”
22. The END of the conversation (or at least after some rapport has been established) is the appropriate time to exchange cards, not the beginning.
23. Don’t forget your Sharpie (of course!) Sharpies write on anything, even those annoying glossy cards that ballpoint pens, rollerballs and other markers won’t. If you need to follow up with someone, write FU (follow up, not you-know-what) on the front, then you write your notes on the back. Easy breezy to keep track just of the cards you need to follow up with.
24. Make sure you have a solid, consistent follow up process. For example mine starts with CardScan (once a week) and ends with this newsletter. Check out my program (this is the FULL version – free – aren’t you glad you read all the way down?) “Stop Drowning in Business Cards” here. It could help you figure out a way to balance the “one-to-one” networking model with a “one-to-many” model that’s more time effective and scalable.
25. Have fun!
Copyright © 2011 – Michelle Villalobos (vee – ya – low – bos). Reprinted with permission. Michelle Villalobos teaches business concepts and skills to professionals – especially women – in a fun, entertaining way. She specializes in topics of interpersonal communication, productivity and personality type, and how to apply them effectively for marketing, sales, networking and team-building. Visit Michelle’s Website and BLOG!
Larry James is a Professional Speaker, Author and Coach. Larry James presents networking seminars nationally and offers Networking coaching; one-on-one or for your Networking Group! 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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