According to Webster’s dictionary, networking is “the cultivation of a productive relationships for employment or business.” The key word is relationship. Unfortunately, the majority of people in the business community don’t seem to understand that important part of the definition. I thought it would be helpful to outline ten tips to help initiate relationships that can eventually lead to financial success and/or a long-lasting friendship.
- Don’t hand your business card to someone before you engage in at least a short, but meaningful conversation. Randomly handing out cards is a waste of paper and does not create a good first impression.
- Send LinkedIn invites to all panelists and speakers either shortly before, during or after an event. Generally, the panelists are experts in their field and filled with knowledge. When sending the invite after you have met, reference something said or mentioned that got your attention. That gets their attention.
- The best networkers are considered, “Givers.” Givers understand networking is about people helping other people. The other three types of networkers, which are not effective, are “askers,” “takers,” and “traders” according to a great book on networking by Jack Killion, Networking All the Time, Everywhere with Everybody
- Invite people you meet for coffee or breakfast. When you meet with people in their offices, the conversation is 90 percent business; when you meet people outside of their offices it’s mostly personal with little or no distractions from other colleagues.
- When you invite people for coffee or breakfast, it should be your treat. If people insist upon splitting, that’s okay, but as a general rule, it’s rude to invite someone out and expect them to pay. It’s like inviting someone over to your home for the first time and asking them to bring their own food.
- Giving a person a copy of your favorite book adds a nice touch. People appreciate books and love to learn what book might have helped you in life be a better person, more successful, etc. Certainly, if you are an author, giving them a signed copy of your latest book is the ultimate gift.
- Take good notes. I prefer a notebook. I find when I take notes on my iPhone, I’m distracted by open emails and texts. Without notes to review later on in the day or week you will most likely miss a follow-up. People value when you remember what they said, where they grew up, how old their kids are, etc.
- Always put your phone on silent and if you are expecting an extremely important call, ask the person if they mind if you take a call that might be coming in. Ideally a meeting should be scheduled without interruption.
- Meet periodically to catch-up. It might be every 4 months, 6 months, etc. As is true, “out of sight, out of mind.”
- When someone asks you to explain your business, always ask them, “What other questions do you have?” instead of “Do you have any other questions?” The former continues the conversation, the latter implies you are short on time.
Remember in many cases you only have one opportunity to turn a first encounter into a successful relationship. Remember, too, that the sole purpose of a business card is to relay contact information, not to initiate a relationship. Business cards, as stated before, are pieces of paper. A conversation makes the best first impression. It’s an encounter where the other person thinks, “I want to get to know him/her.”
The next time you go to any event business don’t fill your pockets with a bunch of business cards. Instead, think about how many productive and meaningful relationships you can cultivate. Networking is about getting to know people as people and helping them to achieve their goals. If that is your focus, your goals will be achieved over time. Effective networking is long-term, but it’s worth it.