Making Networking Practical
There are two main areas of focus when using positive networking tactics: how contacts are identified and appropriate follow-up.
Identifying Potential Connections
Once you understand how to approach networking from a positive standpoint, you can use techniques that are specific for each of the following categories of contacts:
- Satisfied customers. What better referral? They can be your best advocates because they know what you have to offer. You can ask them to introduce you to other people. Most importantly, thank them with a personal note or phone call. They are the life blood of your referral opportunities.
- Friends. You work hard at building your friendships, including establishing mutual trust. You can find out about your friends’ work and help them. Then when the time is right, you can discuss possible referral opportunities and strategic introductions.
- Neighbors. Make the effort to strike up conversations with people in your building or neighborhood. You'll often find out that you have common interests with them. A friend recently told me how she was able to land an appointment with a firm she had been targeting because her neighbor was an executive there. Of course, this did not happen immediately. True networking takes time as you build the rapport and relationship.
- Happy, helpful people. These are the people all of us meet by chance or connect with in unexpected ways. You might meet them on a plane, train, or waiting in line at the movies. I have experienced this many times. I have also been one of those ‘happy, helpful people’. Life has a funny way of connecting us when least expected. You just have to be ready for the opportunity. Remember 24/7 Networking Curiosity.
Effective networking is based on simple tactics. Here are my Seven Rules of Networking to live by:
- Smile. A smile is a universal welcome sign. The people we meet for the first time will appreciate our warmth.
- Look the person in the eye. It’s a compliment to look at someone and connect in the shortest time possible.
- Listen.One of the greatest compliments we can give other people is to let them know that we are listening to them. Remember, when we are networking it’s like reading the paper. Let people tell their stories so we can discover the “news we can use.” Always be thinking, what can I learn from this person and how might I be of help to them.
- Pay attention to body language. First impressions are lasting ones. Monitor expressions. Sometimes, we need to loosen up and realize that everyone can feel somewhat tense meeting new people. We always have two languages going on at the same time- verbal and body. We all pay more attention to body language
- Avoid being aggressive.Be careful of coming on too strong. Never appear desperate. Be open to possible opportunities and you will always walk away learning something from the other person.
- Give genuine compliments. When we listen to people carefully, often they will mention something that they are proud of. Think as they speak and find a way to sincerely acknowledge others’ achievements.
- Business cards are golden. Ask for people’s cards, yet only offer yours when requested. When we do get a care, treat it like my friends in the Far East do- as fine treasures and give them the most respect.
Networking is a process, one that can create business and personal connections to last a lifetime. Whatever our business is and whatever your position is-we are constantly developing, building, and cultivating relationships that can yield results beyond expectations.