The Art of Networking

Posted by Benbon Business Improvement on December 16, 2010

Networking is a necessary activity for growing your business. Yet it is often used as an opportunity to sell or promote oneself, with the expectation of getting quick result. If that is your intention then you’ll be wasting your time and effort. But if you consider networking as an opportunity to form long-term relationships with like-minded business people and are prepared to give and share then you should read on.  


Here are some useful tips for the next time you plan to attend a networking function.


§  Researching – check out networking events that complement your business or are attended by people who are likely to do business with you in one way or another. There are networking organisations for paid-up members or inviting potential members; informal ones where you pay a nominal fee on attendance; free or paid seminars or conferences where networking is inevitable. Some are industry specific, some for women only, yet some are community-based or charity-based.  Therefore, ensure that the event aligns with your business and your strategies.


Never attend all functions unless you are checking them out. When you have chosen the right ones, attend them regularly, attend them well. Soon you’ll know many other people and they will know you. If people hear about you, like you and trust you they will recommend you through word-of-mouth. But you’ve got to work at it.


§   Selling – networking is NOT selling, it’s not about you. It’s about meeting people. It’s about creating relationships and bonds over a period of time that may have lasting effects on your business and personal standing. Therefore, don’t expect quick results.


If you’re asked, be prepared for an ‘elevator pitch’, the time it takes to talk about yourself and your business in an elevator ride. In this way you will be able to cover more people by moving from one to the next without appearing rude.


§   Business cards – always have business cards with you, especially at a networking function. Never be afraid to ask from the other person. Ideally use both sides of your business card rather than leave it blank. The reverse side is a tremendous opportunity for you to state what you do and how your business could benefit others. Spend a few minutes chatting with the person before moving on. Write on their business cards the function, date, place and brief notes about them.   


§  Listening – encourage the other person to talk about his/her business to show your interest and establish rapport. Never start by talking about you or your work first off unless they ask. In this way you’ll get to know their business and decide later if you want to follow up. There’s a saying ‘If you encourage people to speak about themselves they will speak for hours’ and they are likely to remember you.  Don’t waste time on people who are not potential referrers or customers. You can always politely excuse yourself.


§  Giving – focus on whether the person has the potential to do business with you or refer you to others. If so, consider what YOU can do to help them rather than the other way round. Do it without expecting a return. Your giving can generally be done after the event, in your follow-up. In the spirit of giving rather than receiving you’d be surprised what will come back to you.


§  Mingling - don’t stay in a corner and be ignored, you are not at the event just to get information and/or sustenance. By mingling you’ll be networking, the main reason for building relationships. Attend with a friend if possible who can introduce you to others. There will invariably be clusters of groups, especially at regular similar events, but don’t let that deter you. Mingling and chatting will help you hone your communication skills and build confidence.  


§  Dressing dress appropriately for the occasion, giving the appearance of success and good grooming. Appearance and perception mean everything. Carry something in your hand, a cup of coffee, a brochure or book that will make you less self conscious.


§  Following up – be sure to keep a record of the events you attend and the people you meet. Follow-up on the ones you want to build a relationship, with a short email or letter. If you are familiar with the person’s business or problems, your giving can be done in the follow-up, with a book or brochure, useful tips or a researched topic that will interest them. Connecting them to someone else you know who can help them not only leaves a good impression on the person you recently met but also the person you already had developed a relationship.


Remember. The quality of relationships that you develop is the only thing your competitors cannot take away from you.


Elvan Tong

Benbon Business Improvement


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