Based on your feedback, we have created a new series designed to teach networking skills to help you feel more confident in a crowd. Join us for one of our special training classes. In the meantime, here are some quick tip reminders.
Success Sentence Foot-In-Mouth
- Have a genuine interest in people, as people. Approachability is a function of comfort so it is important to sidestep moments of embarrassment, or Foot-In-Mouth Disease, with "Success Sentences." These are phrases that allow the person to offer you the information you are looking for. Examples are:
I’m not sure we’ve met before. You must be new here.
What are you working on this week? How’s work going?
I’m Sam; we met at the Chamber last month. Do you remember me?
- Treat everyone equally. "The Common Point of Interest" is an essential element to every conversation and interaction. As you meet new people, or even as you talk with those you already know, your goal should be to discover the common point of interest as soon as possible. It connects people to you. It allows them to feel more comfortable talking to you. And it increases your approachability inasmuch as people will be magnetized to you due to the commonality you share.
- Listen more than talk. At any type of event, especially networking mixers, wear a smile, think positive, and the Law of Attraction will work for you. A special networking tip - act as if you are hosting the event, even if you are not. When you meet someone, say "Welcome, how are you doing?" Then follow up with "How may I help you?" People will remember you as an approachable, helpful, and hospitable person. Let them speak, and then share with them, briefly, what you do and how you could possibly help them.
- Offer up value first, before asking for anything. In business networking situations, it is important that you honor your own style. How to make the first move and ensure that you get that business card, meeting new people can be daunting and it can seem very pushy to ask for a business card. Be prepared. Have a clean supply of business cards easily accessible. A slim business card holder that fits in a jacket pocket is ideal. Never take cards from your back pocket. You should never dig in your purse, fumble or make people wait while you retrieve your card. Present your card in a manner that demonstrates it is worth something. Ensure that the type is facing up and towards the other person. When receiving a business card, take the time to look at it and comment favorably on some aspect of it, or ask a question that shows your interest.
- Dress for success. Pay attention to dress code announcements on invitations. If it is not listed, ask when RSVP’ing. It is never a silly question (unless the answer is right in front of your face). Gentlemen: business casual does not mean golf course attire and ladies: just because it’s a skirt, does not mean it’s the right skirt!
- Focus on building trust. Stay accountable to yourself first and foremost and then to the people you build relationships with.
- Networking happens anywhere, anytime. The most important business relationships are often created and maintained outside the traditional work environment. This means that you should be prepared to meet your networking circle at restaurants, sporting events, association meetings, fund-raisers, golf courses, seminars, workshops, conferences and conventions. Be committed to knowing and practicing the particular etiquette for these venues as well.
- Gain visibility. Avoid standing at the bar. People may congregate there, but it’s not an ideal spot to engage people in conversation. Instead, stand near the food or dessert table where people are lingering and eating. You’ll find them more open to talking because people like to chat during meals and people are usually happy and receptive when they have ready access to food.
- Know your goal. Most networking events may last two to four hours. Do the math - you might not have enough time to approach everyone, much less connect with them. Set a goal to be brief with your elevator pitch, and treat the event as you would treat your own business. You are there to make initial connections to help grow your business, NOT to make the sale! Acknowledge people you already know (you could always connect with them afterwards) and focus on meeting new people! You may not get a chance to meet that special person or potential client again.
- Keep in touch. Your connection may start at a networking event, but the relationship is built over time. It’s important to follow up the first meeting in an appropriate fashion to keep the momentum and stay top of mind. You can achieve this by email or personal note, “It was a pleasure meeting you. I’ll call you in the next week or so to set up some time to get together.” Another way to stay in touch is by periodically sending important information, articles or notification of a relevant, upcoming event. This demonstrates your understanding of a person’s needs and your willingness to be of service. You can also set up a Google news alert and send congratulatory notes when you learn of pertinent deals or promotions.
- Be gracious. Networking is about being genuine an authentic, building trust and relationships, and seeing how you can help others. If you wait to build your network when you need it, your desperation will show through. The key is to build your network when you don’t need, because you never know when you will. It could also be argued that you always need your network to be on the cutting edge of your industry.
- Networking is relationship-based, not transaction based. Exceptional business leaders have one single talent that sets them apart from all others – their ability to develop business friendships. By connecting other people, a way of paying it forward, these successful leaders are not asking for anything in return. They are never selling relationships to the highest bidder.