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Aug 30, 201601:27 PMThe Gray Area

with Donna Gray

The 10 secrets of powerful networking

Power networking experts will tell you that networking is the ability to create links from people you know to people they want to know, for a specific purpose, and expecting absolutely nothing in return. In his book, Networking is a Contact Sport, Joe Sweeney tells us, “… When you truly give to others without any expectations or strings attached, you will receive much more than you ever could have expected.”

At a recent IB Introductions event I sat at a table with some very interesting folks, almost brand new to the world of owning a business. The main topic of conversation was how to get connected to good prospects and how to overcome the “fears” of networking. It’s interesting to note how many people have that fear.

Experts tell us that those who establish a strong network of relationships have a better chance at creating great business connections. People do business with people they know, like, and trust, so it’s relationships that count.

There are some secrets to powerful networking. Here are 10 tips from some networking experts along with some of my own:

  1. Have sufficient clean, crisp business cards (more than you think you’ll need) at the ready. Cards should be exchanged following a conversation in which rapport has been established.
  2. Be prepared. Do your homework. Research the folks and businesses with whom you’d like to be connected. This part of networking has become easier with the help of social media. I recently read that going to a meeting without Googling your prospect is unacceptable.
  3. Get out of your comfort zone. In order to make new friends (connections) one has to attend events and functions that his or her prospects will attend.
  4. Offer to help at the check-in table. This not only gives a reason to meet and greet everyone, but also makes it easier afterward to chat with attendees.
  5. Make a list of possible opening lines. In her book, How to Work a Room, Susan RoAne says, “Too often we lose an opportunity to meet someone because we spend precious time trying to think of the perfect opening line.” Questions make the best openers, such as “How did you get involved with …? or “How long have you been with XYZ Company?” or “Are you originally from the Dane County area?” We humans like to talk about ourselves, so questions that don’t require just a “yes” or “no” can open the door to a future relationship.
  6. Be courteous to everyone. Give each person you meet and chat with your complete attention. It’s very rude to be continually scanning the room looking for a better connection.
  7. Have a pen ready to make notes on the backs of the business cards you’ll receive. Notes can include the date, the event, the highlight of your conversation, who introduced you — any interesting information about the connection.
  8. Nurture your network. Follow up. Donna Fisher and Sandy Vilas, in their book, Power Networking — 59 Secrets for Personal & Professional Success, say, “Every week, call at least one person whom you have not talked to in at least 90 days. This implements an ongoing process of reactivating your ‘hidden network.’” They also tell us to “send a gift or note as soon as possible when another person has served or supported you in some way.”
  9. You never know when you’ll run into a possible connection opportunity. The other day at the supermarket I met up with someone I’ve been meaning to connect with for quite some time. We had a great conversation in the produce department and after both of us took some notes as reminders, we promised to meet up again to work on ways we can help each other with connections.
  10. The best tip of all is to remember that most people feel uncomfortable when they walk into a room filled with people they don’t know. So knowing that everyone is nervous, you may find it easier to relax and enjoy. Powerful networking is a journey that begins with the first time you smile and hold your hand out to someone else.

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