Todays post was written by Lorna Barrow, an extraordinary business coach and writer. Read her 7 tips to get the most of networking.
The last time I was in New York City, I looked through my hotel window and I saw a guy giving out flyers like crazy. His was really a class act. He managed to deftly hand one to every passerby on his left side at the same time as every vehicle driver on the right. Did he notice that most of them just balled them up and threw them in the garbage? Did he care? He was just hustling!
Last month I went to a cocktail reception hosted by one of my colleagues to launch a new product and there was the Hustler’s brother!
He was standing in the corner near the door with a big smile that had frozen in place over time and he was handing out business cards to anyone who came within three feet of him. Did he notice that not many people bother to look at them? Did he care? He was networking!
If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a hundred times. If you think networking is about meeting as many people as you can, telling them about yourself and handing out hundreds of business cards, you are wrong.
So what is networking? Forget the traditional definition so I’m not even going to mention it. In today’s world networking has more to do with connecting and genuinely caring about people than adding them to your address book until they can do something for you.
So the real question is how do you connect with people? Here are 7 steps to help you.
- Develop a genuine interest in people. Some of the most interesting and fascinating people are the people who might not usually get caught in your networking net. I’ve met maids in hotels who were more interesting and had more ambitious goals than their managers and recently I met a newspaper vendor who read almost the entire newspaper everyday, by the time his last paper was sold.
- Really connect with people. I always smile when I hear or even find it necessary to use the popular term B2B (Business to Business). Don’t look now but business is done P2P (person to person). Have you ever seen two businesses make a deal? No but you’ve seen their owners or some PERSON else making those deals.
- Check your image. Building relationships and connecting requires warmth, openness, empathy, friendliness and being easy to approach. Be genuinely interested in the people you meet and listen to their stories. Being stiff, aloof and only concerned about handing out your business card will not cut it in connecting. Remember, you’re building relationships for the long term.
- Develop the necessary skills. Connecting effectively requires you to develop some key people skills. Listening is an important one of these skills. It allows people to tell you their stories and you to show that you’re genuinely interested in them. Small talk or the ability to talk to anyone about anything is critical to this process. Self-confidence is invaluable for enabling you to approach people and start conversations. After all, connecting is about building relationships.
- Learn to give. If it doesn’t come naturally, you should really learn to give. First of all, it feels good. A big turn on for me is giving to others, it’s just the thing to do. Secondly, what you give truly comes back to you ten-fold. Don’t worry about the “how”, it just does. Giving also builds trust and people like to do business with people they trust. Giving need not be a tangible gift. Connecting two persons who then go on to do business that is mutually beneficial to both is a great gift.
- Learn professional etiquette. Many of your connections will come through attending events so learn how to conduct yourself on these occasions. People remember people who are gracious, polished and treat them with dignity. Furthermore, if you know how to handle yourself in social situations, you are perceived as being equally competent in business circumstances.
- Do follow-up. But do so with some thought, remember you’re connecting. What I do is to send the person some snippet of information, a card or something beyond a mere e-mail. I mention our meeting and highlight what I would have found particularly interesting or engaging about the encounter.
So the next time you see someone distributing business cards like crazy, they’re neither networking nor connecting, they’re hustling!
Author, Business Coach, Training Facilitator and Learning Solution Specialist are some of the titles that can accurately describe Lorna Barrow. She specializes in providing training, business coaching and development solutions to businesses, individuals and entrepreneurs, wherever they are located. Lorna is passionate about helping people, she’s creative but at the same time practical and while most people attempt to think outside the box, she just lives outside the box. She lives a healthy lifestyle on the beautiful Caribbean island of Barbados from where she connects with the world by plane or the internet. When on earthspace you may contact her at (246) 234-8360 in cyberspace use email@example.com or Impact Training