The more networking events I attend, the more I am less and less surprised by how unpolished and abrasive some business professionals are. This year, I joined a close-contact, business referral networking group to promote my credit repair business. It turned out to be the smartest business decision I made all year. In this group, I formed close bonds with business people with whom I pass regular referral business. The group also has helped me to further develop my business etiquette and networking skills.
As a credit repair expert with CJS, I meet many people in related fields. If I had a dimeâ€¦ for all the times someone looked at my â€œcredit repairâ€ name badge and commented out loud, â€œOh, I do that too, but I do it for freeâ€â€¦ Iâ€™d be retired from credit repair. Ok, maybe not. But, I can tell you that starting a conversation on these terms, doesnâ€™t get me off to the right start with them. After a comment like that, Iâ€™m not interested in wasting one more minute of my time. Profitable and long lasting business relationships begin with some basic networking skills. Itâ€™s really just about being nice and listening.
Giverâ€™s gain! Meet new contacts with the attitude that you do not expect anything back from them â€“ ever! Getting to know someone with the underlying, unspoken implication of, â€œwhat can you do for me?â€ is not networking – itâ€™s trading. This attitude keeps a running tally of who owes who, and will eventually breed resentment and a break down in the relationship. Try asking your new friend how you could help them build THEIR business or what would a perfect referral be for them?
Meet new people with enthusiasm and a warm, friendly attitude! Greet people with respect. If you have an opinion about someoneâ€™s profession or company, keep it to yourself. A bad first impression smashes any future opportunity. People remember whoâ€™s nice and whoâ€™s a jerk. Iâ€™d rather be remembered as nice.
There is great power in being a good listener and an observer. I ask one or two questions and just sit back and listen. I try to talk as little about business as possible and focus on small talk. I like to learn something about the character of the person Iâ€™m meeting. I may be interested in their company, but I need to know if I want to deal with their company <b>using them</b>. The way a person conducts themselves can make it or break it for me.
Keep an eye on the clock and be respectful of peopleâ€™s time. Wasting peopleâ€™s time by droning on and on, lacks sensitivity and gets annoying quickly. In an open networking environment, the goal is to meet as many people as possible, so keep it short and sweet. TIP: After youâ€™ve spoken to someone, and gotten their business card, jot a few notes on the card before you approach someone else so you remember that person.
Follow through on promises. If you meet someone and say youâ€™re going to contact them, do so. But again, with respect to that personâ€™s time and the attention they need to give to their own business and customers. A great way to initiate a second contact is to send a hand written card in the mail. Donâ€™t underestimate the power of hand written correspondence! After a mortgage brokers trade show, I mailed a hand written thank you card to everyone I had spoken to. I received calls from people not interested in my credit repair product, but they wanted to thank me for my gesture â€“ thatâ€™s memorable and effective!
A few more TIPS:
A firm handshake is appropriate. Try not to touch people in any other way. Touchy feely? Weâ€™re not doing business. Keep it professional and mature.
Remember, trying to force your business on people is abrasive and annoying. Networking is for meeting and greeting, not selling.
Never answer your cell phone in the middle of a conversation – itâ€™s rude. Cell phones on silent and away! Blue Tooths are not acceptable networking tools â€“ take them off and put them away.
Hand out your business cards, but try asking for theirs first. I like to end the conversation with the business card exchange. Some people start the conversation by handing it over, but I find people can be distracted by it. The handover is also a way to end and excuse yourself.
Have a â€œ30 Second Commercialâ€ planned and practiced that describes what you do. If you are in a large crowd, you will want to â€œweedâ€ threw it in order to discover the people whose businesses best compliment yours.
Try not to get locked in with any one person and waste all your networking time! Tell people it was a pleasure meeting them, but youâ€™re sure theyâ€™d like to meet as many people as they can, so youâ€™ll be moving along. You can also grab someone walking by and say, â€œHey have you met Bob yet?!â€ Put two and two together and move on.
Always, always, always say â€œThank Youâ€!