“It’s not what you know but who you know”, we’ve all heard it said. But what does this really mean when it comes to business networking.
Essentially, networking is getting to know people who can help you develop your business prospects. It’s an effective low-cost marketing method for developing sales opportunities and contacts, based on referrals and introductions – either face-to-face at meetings and gatherings, or by other contact methods such as phone, email or social networking sites like LinkedIn and Twitter. You don’t need to be a big shot or the most outgoing person in the world to network effectively. Some street market sellers have it down to a fine art!
Networking is one of those things that, once you’ve learned a few pointers, you’ll come to do naturally and it’s easy enough to do with some practise.
Speaking of ‘do’ here are several ‘dos’ that we at BCM have found to ease the cogs of the big machine that is business networking:
DO use your personality: Most people will remember very little about the standard “what do you do?” business conversation.
DO become a friend first: Find a common interest, like tennis, and go do that interest together. A warm sell is easier than a cold sell, always. People will connect with you more easily if they can find common ground with you. In order for this to work you need to be a person, not a corporation.
DO look successful: Putting forward a good image of yourself and those you work with is important and first impressions do last. Have an understanding of the event itself and the type of participants in attendance.
DO sit with people you don’t know: This automatically maximises the networking possibilities. Use that time to share stories and past successes, which will help you bond with new contacts.
DO introduce yourself and pretend that you are at a social event where no one really cares what you do. Engage the people you meet in a conversation that focuses on them and their work. It’s not all about you.
DO start with a firm handshake and always make eye contact. Make sure your hands are clean, not sweaty or dirty.
And inevitably, the DON’Ts:
DON’T rudely interrupt. It’s impolite to interrupt a conversation. If two people are talking facing each other, its a good sign that this is a closed conversation.
DON’T talk trash or get too personal. Do not talk about your recent break-up, your horrible colleagues/boss or your sleazy competition in your conversation. People may remember you, but not for the right reasons.
DON’T mention your business first. It is a networking turn off.
DON’T give your business card out to every Tom, Dick and Harry. Many people give out cards indiscriminately and most of the people they give their cards to will never contact them. Give cards to those that you feel that would be a useful contact after the event.
DON’T fully pitch your business at a social gathering, only do the introductions thing and maybe just a one-line summary of what your business does, and use that introduction to set up a time to pitch at length later.
DON’T ever run out of business cards.
So there are a few pointers to get you started on your way in the world of networking.
We will leave you with a wise word from the late Henry Ford:
“The man who will use his skill and constructive imagination to see how much he can give for a dollar, instead of how little he can give for a dollar, is bound to succeed.”