Effective business networking is the bringing together of like-minded individuals who, through relationship building, become walking, talking advertisements for one another. Keep in mind that networking is about being bona fide, building trust, and seeing how your relationship can genuinely help others. Here are 8 tips to help you be a more effective networker:
1. Always figure out before you even walk into a room, what your specific goals are in attending each networking meeting. This helps you to choose groups or associations that will provide the best opportunities for you to get in front of decision makers in your target market.
2. Ask open-ended questions during your networking conversations: questions that ask who, what, where, when, and how. Try to avoid "closed" questions that require a simple yes or no response. By using an open-ended line of questioning, you can really open up the discussion and show listeners that you are interested in them and what they have to say. [Note: click here to learn 8 terrific networking icebreakers]
3. Become a walking resource center. When you become known as a strong resource, others remember to turn to you for suggestions, ideas, names of other people, etc. This keeps you at their "top of mind," which is where you want to be.
4. Make sure you have your "elevator speech" prepared and know it like the back of your hand. An elevator speech is commonly known as the response you would give in the amount of time it would take to reach the tenth floor in an elevator. Always be genuine, so that you don’t sound automated when you relay it to someone who asks what you do. And speak to the value you provide, not just the activities you perform.
5. Always know what is going on in current affairs. If you don’t feel comfortable when you first meet someone, have a backup topic to break the ice until you do. Read the newspaper, keep up online with legitimate news sources, follow topical bloggers, listen to podcasts, etc. There are many way to stay current in only minutes per day.
6. Never just throw your business card at someone the minute you meet them. You must get to know the person and his or her business, as well as explaining your business, before you even contemplate a business card exchange. Some people will find you rude, pushy, and unprofessional which will, in turn, reflect poorly on your business.
7. Always phone or email your new contacts and let them know that you enjoyed meeting them.
If possible, mention things that you discussed on a more personal note (e.g., "I hope you enjoyed that movie you were going to see that night."). People will come to know you as someone who listens and remembers them…and they will develop a trust with you.
8. The most important thing to remember is to follow through quickly and efficiently on referrals you are given. When people give you referrals, your actions are a reflection on them. Respect and honor their trust and your referrals will grow exponentially.
Following these eight tips will put you on the path to becoming a networking guru.