Many books have been written about how to network, and they are all great.
However, if you are looking for a quick guide, here are 10 of the most important points to bear in mind and apply.
- Who are you? You need to know what you bring to the party, and the benefit you can bring to anyone you meet. So develop an Elevator Speech to focus on the one or two benefits you can offer.
- Your own database. Develop a database of related contacts who would be of interest to one another. For example, if you were creating a database of people who could help with household matters, the list would include a plumber, electrician, builder, etc. The same is true of other areas of business – who would be useful in your chosen area of concern?
- How others can help you. You must articulate how others can help you, because you will sometimes be asked, ‘What can I do for you’ What help do you need? Think it through NOW, not on the hoof. It will also help to guide your choice of contacts: what kind of people do you need to meet to progress your career/search?
- Open-ended questions. When you meet someone new, avoid asking questions that produce yes/no answers. Ask open-ended questions, such as ‘What kind of people do you work with?’ which will result in a meaningful conversation.
- Maintain visibility . If you want to Network, you need to be seen and heard, and that means going to meetings and events where the people you want to meet will also be found. Always prepare something interesting to say in case you are given the opportunity to tell the gathering about yourself and your work.
- Giving referrals. Develop a discipline for giving referrals. Do not make useless introductions that lead nowhere. Only refer people from your own database or circle if you are confident the connection is a good one. Remember, if you recommend someone as an expert, and your contact is not really that expert, s/he can lose face, and you will lose your credibility as a useful source.
- Prompt follow-up. If someone refers you and you receive an enquiry (‘I was given your name by a mutual friend ?’) make sure you respond very promptly, otherwise both you and your friend will lose credibility.
- Formal thanks. When you receive a referral (‘I was given your name by a mutual friend ?’), WRITE your thanks as soon as possible after you have met the contact, and tell your friend how it went. Otherwise your friends will stop recommending you.
- Following up new contacts . When you meet someone interesting or useful at an event, and exchange cards or other contact information, make sure you follow up promptly, with a reminder of who you are and what you do. Never expect that others will remember you for ever and a day.
- Be a useful source. At Networking events or other business gatherings, always ask, ‘What do you need – who do you need to meet?’ Above all, do not look for personal gain. Don’t treat each new contact as a possible source of business. If you are helpful to others, you will get all the business and help you need.
Finally, some guidance on mechanics:
- At a networking event, when you make eye contact with someone new, hold that eye contact, smile, offer you hand and introduce yourself
- Always have business cards and/or a small notebook in which to write the contact details of someone who has no cards
- When exchanging cards, treat both with respect.
- Write on the cards you receive, here you met and the date.
- As you part, ask, ‘May I email you?’
Remember, Networking is about sharing and enhancing your common interests, and adding something useful to other people.
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