Posted: Wed 12th Sep 2012
There's no shortcut to reaping the rewards of networking, but it's worth thinking about how you approach it so that you're efforts with building connections with others truly help your business. In her third post adapted from her book Networking Step by Step, author Marilyn Messik offers ten of her networking dos and don'ts.
Ask questions Ask lots of questions and always, always listen to the answers. The person you're talking to may be totally unconnected to what you do and may not be the first person you'd choose to chat to at a party; but unless you take the time and trouble to find out more about what they do, you'll never really know whether you have an opportunity to do business with them. Be concise When you're telling people what you do, make sure you wrap it up neatly for them; don't give them chapter and verse. I'm sure, like me, you've seen someone holding forth to a group, showing no interest in anybody else and preventing them from finding out about each other. Result? Long before the 'me, me, me' person has finished talking, the others, have switched off and mentally, if not physically, moved on. Follow up Do make a point of contacting new people you've met up with at a meeting, even if you don't have a specific recommendation or introduction. Sometimes a brief acknowledgement is enough to make the difference between a person feeling good about a meeting or not. In turn that can make the difference between them coming to another meeting or not - and networking is all about expanding the circle isn't it? Form partnerships Offer to recommend someone and give out their business card to your clients to whom this person's business might be relevant. In exchange, your strategic partner will be doing the same thing for you. Find a happy balance Ideally, you should strike a happy balance between networking and working, and the easiest way to do that is to think and plan ahead. You'll find forward dates for meetings on all the various networking sites; plot your networking time so you're balancing the time you spend going out and getting new clients with the time you spend actually supplying them.
Talk too much Don't gabble, don't babble, don't giggle, don't talk about yourself all the time, don't feel tempted to launch into details of your recent relationship break-up or the tragic and untimely demise of your hamster and don't, don't, don't keep glancing over the shoulder of the person you're talking to in case someone more interesting happens along. Get personal I'm not suggesting you can't ever be yourself and relax; just don't lose sight of why both you and the other people there have pitched up. You're there for business reasons and whilst fast friendships may and often do develop with people you meet, your personal trials and tribulations are always best kept to yourself at this point. Be impatient Don't be disheartened should you approach a couple of people and get cold-shouldered. You'll come across people who are always willing to try out new and innovative ways of getting business and others that aren't so forward-thinking. In business, as in life, you have to kiss a fair old number of frogs before you hit a prince or two. Forget to be courteous Always thank people who give you a referral from which you get business - it's good etiquette to drop them an email and let them know. In fact, even if you get a referral and it doesn't come to anything, it's still a good idea to let the introducer know that you're really appreciative of his/her efforts even though this time it didn't work out. Treat everyone the same Don't do a general circular to everyone you've just met at a meeting. A circular does no-one any good and, rather like the round robins people circulate at Christmas to friends and family, merely indicates to the recipients that you really couldn't be bothered to take that extra minute or two to address them individually.
About Marilyn Messik
A former travel publisher, Marilyn Messik is founder of Create Communication, a copywriting consultancy working with businesses of all types and sizes to help shape their messages to optimum effect. She's become a serial networker on the business women's circuit, holds successful communication workshops and is the author of Networking Step by Step.
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