Business Networking 101

Nov 21, 2012

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Dive in. Get networking and grow your business.

Great, but what is networking? Let’s begin with what business networking is not. It is not purchasing a list of leads, cold calling them, and touting your business prowess. There is no short road to networking. Its getting out of the office. Its getting to know people, establishing trust, and finding a way to assist others in their efforts.

Networking is leveraging your contacts and knowledge to promote the success of another person. it is a socially interactive practice that facilitates your opportunities to increase contacts, build long-term business relations, and promote community outreach.

You might ask, “But what’s in it for me?” The answer: A lot. Interactions based on successful networking practices allow you to build on common ground and discover ways to form partnerships with people on the move. Think back to major breakthroughs you have had in your career. Do you attribute any of them to relationships? You have heard it said, “It’s not what you know, but who you know that matters.” This statement is a profound summary of the power of networking.

I’m ready. What do I do?

First, recognize that you will be introducing yourself and your business to others. Identify why you do what you do and then prepare to speak it purposefully in 30 seconds. “I sell widgets to toy companies” may not be as powerful as “I’m a child at heart. I create educational toys for toddlers.”

Now that you know what to say, listen

People love to talk. While interacting, do not fall victim to the typical social blunder of impatiently waiting for the moment to give your plug. Never form your sentences or think about what you will say next while someone is speaking to you, just listen. There will be plenty of time to speak when they are finished. A genuine listener has the advantage in social settings. They are perceived as authentic and solid. Additionally, don’t one-up the people you speak with. If they share a great insight or story, let them shine for a moment. When the stage is set for you, speak on purpose. They may just listen to you.

Next, find where to say it

Research local community gatherings of interest. They are easy to find and very low cost. Do you know when and where your county chamber of commerce meets? Are you aware of local charities that could benefit from your time? Do you belong to a book club, athletic club, race team, or rotary? Have you researched business networking clubs in your city? Do you belong to Toastmasters? Do you have opportunity to serve on boards, committees, or other groups? Discover what is happening in your community. As you look for networking opportunities you will begin to see more and more of them. Have you ever bought a new car? As soon as you do you will immediately begin to notice other drivers with same color and model as you. You begin to notice them in parking lots everywhere you go. Not until you owned one did you take interest. Own you networking. Take interest.

Finally, prioritize time during your work week to get out there

Leave your office and travel to a predetermined location specifically to network. If you wait for a good time to network, you will most likely remain at the office limiting yourself to those you meet at the copy machine. Start small and work from there. Networking is not the number of people as much as it is the quality of interaction. You will find that as you make the time to effectively assist others and take interest in them, likewise they will assist you. Remember “word of mouth?” Networking is just that.

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