Monday, August 20, 2007

The Seven Principles of Effective, Successful Business Networking

I have invited Jason Jacobsohn, who regularly posts comments on this blog and who has an excellent blog of his own, Networking Insight, to give us his thoughts on what makes a successful networker.

1) Set Goals
Before you attend a networking event, you need to have some goals in mind. Ask yourself the following questions: Who do I want to meet? How many people do I want to meet? Why do I want to meet these people? Where will I meet these people?

Without a clear goal in mind, you won’t make the best use of your time when attending events. When you meet people, you should have a reason to talk with them so you can start to build meaningful relationships.

Do your research and find events that will allow you to meet the desired people. You can then put yourself in a position to reach your networking goals.

2) Carry Business Cards at All Times
A simple but often forgotten networking must is to carry business cards with you at all times. Whether or not you plan on attending an event, you should never leave home or the office without them.

You just never know what situation you will be in and who you will meet. It can be embarrassing if you don’t have a business card to hand out, which could show that you’re not an organized individual.

First impressions make a difference. Put business cards in your wallet, purse, briefcase, coat or pants and make sure your cards are accessible at all times.

3) Take Good Notes on Business Cards
When you meet people, it’s important to remember what has been said. Make sure to take notes on the back of their business cards.

By taking notes, you will remember your conversations and have information available when you follow up. Make sure to take notes about personal and business information such as birthdays, anniversaries, business interests and hobbies.

All of this information can help you to build your relationships with people. At the very least, it shows you took the conversation seriously and were paying attention.

In addition to taking good notes on business cards, it’s helpful if you transfer the information to an electronic format such as a PDA, Outlook or Act. That way, you can continue to add future notes and easily search for this information.

4) Be Genuine

Your networking demeanor can have a huge impact on how you meet people and build relationships. Make sure you come across sincere and don’t try to oversell.

When talking with people, apply your full attention by listening, giving eye contact, asking questions and not interrupting. You actions will go a long way and tell people whether or not you’re a good conversationalist.

Make sure to build trust and a good relationship with people before you ask for help or try to sell to them. Over time, it will be easy to approach your contacts with your needs.

5) Offer to Help Others
While talking with people, pay special attention to their personal and business needs. By doing so, you will have the opportunity to help them. Offering to help others before you ask for help is a networking must.

Ways to help are to share resources, make introductions, gather data and perform consulting. By extending yourself to others, you will build a reputation as a doer rather than a taker. Networking circles are small. Your actions will be known.

When the time comes for your needs, you will be able to approach your network with ease and they should be very willing to help you.

6) Follow Up
After you meet people, it’s important to follow up. Without follow up, you won’t be able to build relationships and your network. It’s a good idea to follow up with people the next day so you’re still fresh in their minds.

While e-mail follow up is easy and less intrusive, telephone follow up can be more personal and effective with some people. Choose the most appropriate method. You can follow up with just a simple “hello” to tell people it was nice to meet them.

You can also e-mail a Web site link or article about something you talked about the day before.

If you offer to help someone – no matter how big or small – you need to follow up. Without following through, you won’t be taken seriously and your networking efforts won’t be very effective. You’ll also create a bad reputation.

7) Build Relationships
After you meet people, you need to continue to build your relationship with them. Without fostering these relationships, your network won’t be very valuable and attentive to your needs. Find ways to connect with your network by inviting them to breakfast, lunch, dinner, drinks or events.

By reaching out to them, you will come across as genuine and someone who values your relationships.

A great way to be in constant communication with people is to create an e-mail newsletter. Tailor the newsletter to a general interest so everyone can benefit from it. You can include event information, business articles and economic data. Whatever you decide, make sure it’s of value.

In addition, when you come across articles or other resources that could benefit individual people, send these items to them. Your contacts will appreciate your thoughtfulness and they will remember you.

1 comment:

  1. Jason and Andy - two of my favorite people to read blog entries from. Thank you Jason for this post. Wouldn't it be nice if everyone took your advice and we were all helping each other? We would all get to a new level of success?
    Your words were just what I needed today. Thank you.
    Sharan Tash
    The Professional Networker