Business networking is critical to your success.
The more people you know, the more opportunities you have and the more referrals you will get. You have incredible access if you are networked with good business owners. You might meet the best mechanic in town, an investor, a realtor, a financial planner, a florist, a doctor, an engineer, a teacher—the list goes on! Networking events are the lifeblood of business development.
Here are some networking habits to help increase and strengthen your personal network and reinforce the benefit of networking.
1. Go strike up a conversation.
You can just sit there among a group and wait for people to come to you, but that is not effective networking. You have to take responsibility for striking up a conversation. If you feel intimidated or fear rejection, approach the person as if they want to meet you and they are waiting for you to take the first step. Remember to keep it positive and focus on the other person instead of yourself. This habit applies to all group functions, whether dinner, social events, parties, or standing in line at the grocery store. Don’t be shy; the room is filled with business people. From entrepreneurs, start-ups, and the like, the name of the game is meeting people and building relationships.
2. Fulfill the commitments you make.
Or, don’t commit to promises that you won’t keep. If you promise someone something, do it. A great way to weaken your network is to say you will do something and not do it. If you promise to call to get a lunch set up, do it. If you promise to forward certain information, do it. Business connections grow partnerships. You want to be known as a reliable source for other people’s networking strategy as well as just growing your own professional network. Don’t forget to help others with a disregard for personal gain. Think of how many mentors you have gotten free advice from in your own business. You want to network with dependable and reliable people, and so do those looking to connect with you.
3. Close the conversation on a positive note.
Clearly communicate your desire to meet again and continue the conversation. “It was good to see you. Thank you for your time. I look forward to seeing you again. It was nice talking with you.” These and other positive phrases are great ways to end a conversation. It is imperative to utter positive statements at the close of a conversation if opposing perspectives are shared. Let the person know that you appreciate them. All new contacts are good contacts; every interaction perfects your networking skills, leading to new business.
4. Keep the appointments you set.
How is this an effective networking habit? Time management is essential. If you agree to meetup in person or virtually, you are reserving that person’s valuable time. When you cancel an appointment, it can communicate that you think your time is more important than the person’s time you canceled. You networked your way to an appointment, and you are canceling? Reserving a time and not showing up is even worse. Avoid inconveniencing your friends, family, and business associates by calling off scheduled events. Good networking is being mindful that you both have a common goal, and that is to bring success to both of your businesses.
5. Diversify your network.
Accept others for who they are, not for who you want them to be. Your networking group doesn’t always have to be monochromatic. The more diverse it is, the broader your reach will become. This is far easier said than done. You might not want to sport purple hair, but other people might. You might enjoy reading books while other people prefer to watch television. Perhaps a co-worker talks really slowly, and you speak fast. A key to increasing your acceptance is to remind yourself of how boring life would be if we were all alike! A diverse network allows you to expand your thinking and your opportunities. Remember that business opportunities come in all shapes and sizes, and so will your connections.
“More business decisions occur over lunch and dinner than any other time, yet no MBA courses are given on the subject.”
6. Stay in touch.
Grab a business card, or at least be sure you get the first and last names of people you connected with, so you can record or database who they are. You can send them “nice to meet you” cards, holiday cards, emails, phone calls, or personal meetings. You can make it a point to speak with them at networking functions, eat lunch, or get coffee together. Networks that don’t stay warm typically die off. Never forget the power of social networking across all platforms of social media. LinkedIn, Chamber of Commerce mixers, and other successful networking opportunities to reconnect these business relationships. There are thousands of ways to keep in touch, and each interaction will offer new opportunities for maximizing your networking efforts. You meet a lot of people at one event, and you never know what elevator pitch may land you the successful business growth you have been working so hard to find.
Expand and strengthen your network. Practice these valuable tools, tips, or habits to enjoy a strong network’s many benefits.
Best of success to you!