Do you suffer from “Butterfly-itis” at the very mention of networking at business functions? If you answered yes, you are not alone! Many business people and entrepreneurs get a bit uncomfortable when it comes right down to walking up to someone and starting a conversation. Many others are concerned about getting effective results from the time they spend networking.
The process doesn’t have to be traumatic, scary, or a waste of time. When done properly, it can truly make a difference in the amount of business your company generates. With the right approach, you can use it to build a wealth of resources and contacts that will help to make your business very successful.
Use the following Ten Commandments to help you network your way through your next business networking event:
1. Have the tools to network with you at all times
These include an informative name badge, your business cards (I’m amazed at how many people forget to bring these to networking events – really critical for people to be able to contact you), somewhere to write notes (I use the cool, free tool at http://www.repocketmod.com/), something to write with, and a way to refer other professionals to those you meet (such as a card file, smartphone, etc.).
2. Set a goal for the number of people you’ll meet
Identify a reachable goal based on attendance and the type of group. If you feel inspired, set a goal to meet fifteen to twenty people and make sure you get all their cards. If you don’t feel so hot, shoot for less. In either case, don’t leave until you’ve met your goal.
3. Act like a host, not a guest
A host is expected to do things for others, while a guest sits back and relaxes. Volunteer to help greet people. If you see visitors sitting, introduce yourself and ask if they would like to meet others. Act as a connector.
4. Listen and ask questions
Remember that a good networker has two ears and one mouth and uses them proportionately. After you’ve learned what another person does, tell them what you do. Be specific, but brief. Don’t assume they know how to help you.
5. You’re not there to close a deal
These events are not meant to be a vehicle to hit on business people to buy your products or services. Networking is about developing relationships with other professionals. Meeting people at events should be the beginning of that process, not the end of it.
6. Give referrals whenever possible
The best networkers believe in the givers gain philosophy (what goes around, comes around). If I help you, you’ll help me and we’ll both do better as a result of it. In other words, if you don’t genuinely attempt to help the people you meet, then you are not networking effectively. If you can’t give someone a bona fide referral, offer some information that might be of interest to them (such as details about an upcoming event).
7. Exchange business cards
Ask each person you meet for two cards – one to pass on to someone else and one to keep. This sets the stage for networking to happen.
8. Manage your time efficiently
Spend ten minutes or less with each person you meet and don’t linger with friends or associates (you already know them!). If your goal is to meet a given number of people, be careful not to spend too much time with any one person – and don’t spend too little time only focusing on gathering business cards. When you meet someone interesting with whom you’d like to speak further, set up an appointment for a later date.
9. Write notes on the backs of business cards you collect
Record anything you think may be useful in remembering each person more clearly on the back of their business card (or remember the repocketmod.com). This will come in handy when you follow up on each contact.
10. Follow up!
You can obey the previous nine commandments religiously, but if you don’t follow up effectively, you will have wasted your time. Drop a note or give a call to each person you’ve met. Be sure to fulfill any promises you’ve made.
Called the father of modern networking by CNN, Dr. Ivan Misner is a New York Times bestselling author. He is the founder and chairman of BNI (www.bni.com), the world’s largest business networking organization. His latest book, Networking Like a Pro, can be viewed at www.IvanMisner.com. Dr. Misner is also the Sr. Partner for the Referral Institute (http://www.referralinstitute.com/), an international referral training company. He can be reached at email@example.com.
A highly sought after word-of-mouth and referral marketing expert, Mark Deutsch is the Managing Editor of The Business Networker. Mark is also the Dean of Elephant University (http://www.elephantu.com/), a sales/marketing training company, and he is the CEO/Executive Director of BNI-Central Virginia (http://www.bniva.com/). He is a widely recognized expert in sales, marketing, sales management, and entrepreneurship and a frequent speaker on the topics. Mark is also a Guest Expert for Love Your Life (Again) specializing in business networking. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was coordinated by CareerRocketeer regular contributor Brent Peterson.
Brent Peterson, PMP, MS, MBA, is the founder of Interview Angel Inc, a company that offers a comprehensive guide and toolkit for job seekers to use in interviews. Interview Angel is in use at universities, corporations, non-profit agencies, and local governments.
Discover customer testimonials, blog posts, upcoming events, and media interviews at http://www.interviewangel.com/. Brent is also in LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com/in/brentpeterson) and on Twitter (@InterviewAngel).