Never pass up an opportunity to network. Networking is something you should continually be doing, however if you are guilty of breaking the networking rules, people will create distance between you and you will end up being alone. Networking is a wise investment of your time and energy when you follow the rules.
Networking is about building meaningful relationships, earning trust and cultivating individual connections. When you break the rules, you put this process in jeopardy. Networking can be both exciting and daunting, however, networking events can become more manageable and allow for real growth for you personally when you adopt the following networking rules.
What are the rules? My business success has been built upon the following “Sweet 16” networking rules. Adopt them and plug them into your networking repertoire and watch amazing things begin to happen.
1. Forget about instant gratification and short-term results. Networking works better in the future than right now. Networking by definition means talking to people when you don’t need something. Think long-term growth. Harvey McKay’s book, “Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty” suggests that you should begin building your network of support before you need it. AND… only network with people you like and trust.
2. Be a “Swizzle Stick”; the person who – in any room – stirs things up by introducing people to each other.
3. Never SELL at networking events and never treat people as prospects. No brochures to hand out. Only exchange business cards when you feel that someone you have just met might deserve a follow-up. Make notes on the back of their business card to assist your memory of the encounter.
4. Focus on making new friends and building relationships! Friendship always trumps acquaintanceship. New connections are only as valuable as the depth of connection that you’ve made.
5. Follow-up. If you say you will do something… keep your word. Staying in touch requires effort. That’s exactly why those that do, stand out from everyone else.
6. Give everyone your undivided attention and be truly present in conversations. Not only is direct eye contact a better way to make a connection; sometimes it is the only way. Looking for someone better to talk to is the best way to doom a good relationship from the beginning. Focusing on the other person will help you get into a more substantive conversation.
7. Tap your strengths; your thirst for knowledge, desire to help others, interest in sharing best business practices, to help anchor your approach to help others remember you.
8. Arrive early and stay late at networking events. It’s easier to make one-on-one connections with fewer people competing for attention of many.
9. Concentrate on engaging everyone you meet with an enthusiastic, positive outlook. Smile. Had a bad day? It’s important to be up when meeting new net people! Scowling will ensure that you leave an event without business cards, but with your unpleasant attitude intact.
10. Spend more time listening than speaking. It’s one thing to appear to listen, and quite another to really hear what someone says. Be in the moment. Be genuinely curious about others. Ask lots of questions to clarify your thinking about whether to pursue a relationship. Your life story is far more interesting to you than to someone you’ve just met. Asking someone, “What do you do?” within a minute or two of meeting them suggests your interest in them depends on their answer.
11. Be approachable. An open and welcoming countenance is an invitation to connect. If you are not approachable in a networking setting, you simply will not be approached.
12. Networking is about reciprocity. However, you must first give. It often takes a while for others to give you business referrals. Be patient. Be generous and creative in sending business to other networkers. Most importantly… give first. That could be business referrals, tips, business ideas that work for you, clipping magazine articles that may be helpful to others, connecting two people who should know each other, etc. Over time, people who remember you will introduce you to their friends which will make your future networking at events go much smoother.
13. Use your network first if you need something. If someone has a product or service you want or need, contact them first. You don’t have to buy from them, but you should consider them. Networking is also about “giving” back. If someone asks you for a referral, start with your network – but only those you trust and who are relevant.
14. Be generous with sincere compliments. Doing this helps you to project your warmth, inviting nature, and most of the time, it gets you into a professional conversation right away.
15. Be yourself. Never try to be someone you think someone thinks you should be. Present the best side of you. Maintain humility and always put your best food forward. Make a good first impression. Manners are important too.
16. Don’t keep score. It’s the one fundamental concept that is the most misunderstood in networking. Few people truly get it. Give a business referral and do not expect anything in return. Do it because you love to help others, not because you will now expect them to return the favor. Unfulfilled expectations always cause problems. Expectations are resentments under construction. Yes, networking is about reciprocity, but you must understand that what you give will always come back to you, but not always from the person to whom it was given!
Networking is… using your creative talents to help others achieve their goals as you cultivate a network of people strategically positioned to support you in your goals… expecting nothing in return! ~ Larry James
I must admit, none of this is easy, but it becomes second nature with time and practice and practice and practice. The quality of your life is determined by the quality of your relationships. The quality of your business is no different.
Copyright © 2014 – 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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