Networking is something we all do naturally and effortlessly without thinking about. If you move to a new town and need a dentist, you start asking neighbors and colleagues for a referral. Business networking can be just as natural and easy. However, if you've ever attended a networking event or business meeting to arrive back at the office with stacks of business cards you've collected and then can't remember who the vast majority of these people are, you will realize the importance of being memorable and making a lasting impression.
1. Get Your Personal and Emotional Needs Met. Before you even bother attending any events or functions, first figure out what your needs are and get them met. Why? Because we instinctively run from neediness in any form, and since all humans have personal and emotional needs you might as well find out what yours are and then get them satisfied so you aren't running around repelling the very people you want to attract. Take the free Emotional Index Quiz to get a list of your top four needs.
2. Prepare and Perfect Your Elevator Speech. Make sure it is short, punchy, memorable and benefit-based. E.g. “Hello, I'm Ted Johnson. I alleviate chronic pain. I'm a chirpopractor.” Or, “ I'm Tammy Burch..I help people knock down road blocks, Im a Life Coach.
3. Get there Early. If you are one of the first there, then newcomers will come to you. If you are late, you'll have to elbow your way into a group.
4. Go for Quality over Quantity. Over the years I've learned that if I come away from a meeting or event with one person who I really connect with, I've done well. I used to try to meet as many people as possible and collect as many cards as I could. Now I realize it is much better to walk away having had one really good conversation or making one real connection than with fifty business cards that are meaningless.
5. Be Memorable. If you do go to an event or function, you'll want to be memorable. It helps if you have a prop or a visual image that reinforces your message or business. A computer programmer might have a microchip lapel pin. If you are in a creative business, make sure you attire looks creative and helps to brand your business. If you have a chance to introduce yourself, a fun visual prop will help you stand out from the crowd.
6. Speak Clearly and Concisely. Avoid umm's and ahs's like the plague. If you have this bad habit, join your local Toastmaster's International group and practice your speaking there.
7. Ask Three Powerful Questions. We are more likely to like and remember the person who listens to us than than the person who talks. So be that person who gets others talking by asking three great open-ended questions such as: What got you started in this business or line of work? What do you enjoy most about what you do? Tell me about your favorite customers so that I can refer prospects to you.
8. Do What Works for You. There is no rule that to build a networker you have to be an extrovert and go to functions and shake hands with loads of people. Some of the most successful networkers are introverts who have built up a community of followers online through blogs or Facebook or Twitter. Use your natural strengths and abilities to create a network of people. If you like writing, start blogging about your field or business. If you like parties, host them or attend them. If you like going to business functions do that. Thanks to the internet and social media, you can easily build a powerful network from your desk.
9. Add Value at Every Interaction. People love being acknowledged so this is a simple and easy way to add value. “Your introduction was very clear. Nice to meet you. I'm....” Or offer to introduce them to other's in the room. Invite them to a free seminar that might be of interest. Give them a good resource. If you focus on being of service to those you meet, you'll avoid coming across as being pushy or desperate.
10. Follow-up Immediately. Not just on all referrals you've been given, but also on anything you said you do. Thank the person who referred you with a personal note, phone call or letter. It helps if you jot down any promises you've made on the back of the business card they gave you so you remember. Another tip. Keep your business cards in one pocket and the ones you collect in another. If you don't have time to follow-up immediately, say so. “I'll be travelling for two weeks. Is it okay if I get back to you then?” If you can't be bothered to follow-up, then don't bother going in the first place!
The key to being a natural networker is to find the groups you resonate with and join them, whether online or in person. When you are relaxed and can be yourself, you'll connect with the right people. Try too hard and you'll come across as needy, desperate or annoying.