No matter how hi-tech the world becomes, personal networking will always remain essential to better business. The more effectively you apply the time-proven principles of networking, the more certain your business will succeed.
Abraham Lincoln, who clearly understood the power of self-improvement, wrote, "Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax." So, regardless of your business, sharpening your networking skills ensures faster connections and more promising relationships in every aspect of business.
As a communications professional and networking coach, I teach people the key to networking -- it's not about you! It is important to understand this principle: Your goal is to give value to others rather than seeking what you can get.
Dr. Ivan Misner, founder of Business Network International (BNI) developed the networking principle called "Givers Gain," which teaches that by giving to others, we create positive relationships that ultimately create a desire to reciprocate.
In 2008, while living in Nashville, I met Vinnie Ribas, one of the best "net givers" I ever met. He was a master networker.
When he met someone, he would always ask, "How can I help you?" or "Who can I introduce you to?" He would often pull out his phone and give you a name and number. Or when possible, would simply call the person and introduce you, easily making a direct and immediate connection.
Brian Gray, another top Chattanooga networker, sells advertising for Partners for Christian Media (J103) and is the networking education director for one BNI chapter. He recently shared an effective way to get people quickly talking about themselves -- which is their favorite topic.
He explained when starting a conversation with someone, listen intently. When the person shares something interesting, respond by asking them to tell you about something -- their job, a favorite restaurant, their hobby or their family. When we show sincere interest in others, they typically begin to open up and talk, which can result in a great conversation.
Here are "Seven Key Tips to Networking Success":
Be authentic. Above all, be real and sincere. People always appreciate authenticity.
Don't be afraid. Walking into a room full of strangers can be intimidating. But relax, take a deep breath, and go have fun (yes, you can!).
Practice your "elevator speech." Prepare to network by crafting and practicing a 60-second introduction which includes your name, company, and what you do. Preparation for sharing relieves stress and pressure.
Set a goal. Instead of being overwhelmed by crowds, simply set a goal to meet and connect with three to five people. This is an easily obtainable objective, and you are more likely to make significant contacts this way.
Listen well. Most people listen but are actually preparing to respond. Be different -- be an engaged listener. The most remembered people are the best listeners. Ask open-ended questions, repeat key things being said, and don't look around while listening. Then the speaker will know you are present in the moment.
Be a "net giver." Ask how you can help them or who you can help them meet. You will quickly become well-liked and highly valued.
Conduct effective follow-up. Motivational speaker Jim Rohn once said, "The fortune is in the follow-up." The best contacts and connections are pointless unless you follow-up. The "secret sauce" of networking begins during meetings you schedule after events. These get-togethers enable you to get to know one another better, learn about each other's businesses, and share how you can help each other.
If you put these seven proven tips into practice, you will find yourself well on the journey to business and networking success.
Reen Waterman is a business coach, national speaker, writer and communications professional, training businesses and corporations in effective marketing and communications strategies. He can be found here.