By Nate Muehl, Prestige BNI and BNI Vermont Ambassador, Saint Albans, Vermont
Effective business networking is the linking together of individuals who, through trust and relationship building, become walking, talking advertisements for one another.
#1: Keep in mind that networking is about:
Being genuine and authentic, building trust and relationships, and seeing how you can help others. The key for networking events is to make solid connections with individuals so they will remember who you are when you do follow up with them. You want them to be interested to meet with you for coffee or lunch.
#2: Ask yourself what your goals are in participating in networking meetings.
Knowing this will help you pick groups that will help you get what you are looking for. Some meetings are based more on learning, making contacts, and/or volunteering rather than on strictly making business connections.
#3: Ask open-ended questions in networking conversations.
Asking questions is a basic way to gather information. But like everything else, there’s a skill to it. Asking open-ended questions is a friendly way to engage people in a conversation. Knowing the difference between open-ended and close-ended questions will help you tremendously in your career and social life.
#4: Become known as a powerful resource for others.
When you are known as a strong resource, people remember to turn to you for suggestions, ideas, names of other people, etc. This keeps you visible to them.
#5: Have a clear understanding of what you do.
Understanding of what you do and why, for whom, and what makes your doing it special or different from others doing the same thing. In order to get referrals, you must first have a clear understanding of what you do that you can easily articulate to others.
#6: Follow through quickly and efficiently on referrals you are given.
When people give you referrals, your actions are a reflection on them. Respect and honor that and your referrals will grow.
#7: Call those you meet who may benefit from what you do and vice versa.
Express that you enjoyed meeting them, and ask if you could get together and share ideas.
Business networking isn’t always the most enjoyable activity in your business but it can certainly be one of the most effective ways if you utilize the opportunity to its fullest potential. If business networking is uncomfortable for you try bringing a colleague or friend with you until you are conferrable enough to do it on your own.