I think your professional skills aren’t worth very much unless people know about them and they know about you. This is where business networking comes in.
As a communication coach, I’ve seen highly capable professionals who weren’t going anywhere because they lacked a solid network. I’ve also seen less capable professionals who were going places because they were doing businesses networking effectively.
Please notice the word ‘effectively’, since networking by itself is often not enough. Running around at business conferences spreading business cards won’t take you very far. It’s essential that you network the right way, and this is why in this article, I’m providing you with the 4 key steps to better business networking.
Step 1: Have a Plan
There are so many professionals out there you can meet and so many opportunities for networking that unless you focus, you’ll be running around like a chicken with its head cutoff.
If you want results, you need to have a plan for networking. Sit down with a pen and a paper (I’m old fashion with this one) and write down the kind of professionals you would benefit the most from meeting. Profile them accurately in terms of profession, position and personality. Then, pick networking opportunities correlated with this profile, so you’ll make the best use of your time and energy.
Step 2: Approach!
I like to go to a networking event together with at least one other person. I also like to go to events where I already know some people and use them to introduce me to other people there. But you know what? That’s not always possible; especially when your web is still small.
This is why I believe one of the most important abilities in business networking is the ability to approach. This means going to people you don’t know at a business event and initiating conversations with them. You probably won’t find this comfortable at first, but I can tell you from experience that the more you practice it, the easier it will become.
Step 3: Make Big Small Talk
Even the most meaningful business relationships start with small talk and simple conversation starters such as: “What do you do?”, “How do you like your job?”, “What do you think of the speaker?” and so on.
If you’re not good at it yet, learn how to make small talk at business events and do so. At the same time, keep in mind that small talk doesn’t mean talking about things you really don’t care about and hoping something positive will come of it. Rather, it means starting simple in a conversation and turning it into something big.
Step 4: Focus On Building Relationships, Not On Selling
Whenever I ask various persons what they hate about going to business events, they often tell me they hate people who approach them and start selling them something out of the blue. Whenever I ask them what they enjoy, they often tell me the enjoy meeting new people who are authentic, interesting and good conversationalists.
You want to be this second person. Sure, light conversation may turn into a huge business deal, but it starts as light conversation with a focus on getting to know each other professionally and building a trust-based relationship. Keep in mind that relationship comes first, selling comes second.
More than anything else, effective business networking is in my perspective a matter of practice and patience. Know your goals, go out there, be sociable and don’t take business networking too seriously just because the word ‘business’ is in there.
Once you reach a certain threshold, the results will begin to manifest and soon, they will blow your mind.
Eduard Ezeanu is a communication coach who teaches people how to start a conversation and helps them put their best foot forward in communication. He also writes on his blog, People Skills Decoded.
photo credit: rmlowe