The day I let go of any expectation of attracting new business from networking and concentrated more on helping others achieve their goals, my own business started to benefit immeasurably.Referrals, leads and new business is the outcome of being a great networker, not about how well you sell to the room or in your pitch. What goes around comes around… human kind can’t yet explain this scientifically, but it does seem to work. Give to receive. Counter-intuitive to many people, nevertheless it’s the fundamental ethos of business networking. Helping others. Here is a whole stack of great networking tips I have learnt over the years.
Use a helpful approach especially on business networking websites. Think: “What can I contribute to this community which people will find truly helpful?” And then work hard to extend that help – whatever it is – to as many relevant people as possible.
Always keep your integrity. Nothing destroys networking like lack of trust. Trust is based on knowing that the other person has integrity.
Ask people: “How can I help you?” and “What can I do for you?”
Develop a concise and impressive description of who you are and what you do. Aim high. Think Big.
Develop slightly different descriptions of yourself for different situations – so that you are as relevant as possible. As you work with these descriptions or ‘elevator speeches’, you will find that a series of mix-and-match phrases take shape.
Continue to refine and adapt these statements. Get feedback from people, and notice what works best, for different situations.
Be different to everyone else – especially your competitors.
Try to see all your competitors as potential allies. There is often not much difference – just a frame of mind. This can be very significant if you are spending a lot of time looking over your shoulder at what your competitors are doing, and not concentrating on building your own business.
Direct all your efforts to growing your own positive activities, and resist losing valuable energy and time and resources combating or worrying about the apparent successes or advantages of others.
Be positive. Use positive language. Smile. See the good in people. Be known as a really positive person. It rubs off on others and people will warm to you for being so.
Keep your emotional criticisms and personal hang-ups about others to yourself. If you hear someone being negative about another person, you will often wonder, “I wonder if he/she says that sort of thing about me too?”
Some say it’s bad Karma to speak ill of another. True or not, why risk it? Saying negative things at the expense of another person brings everyone down. This is the opposite of what business networking requires to succeed.
Be passionate and enthusiastic, but not emotional and subjective. Avoid personalizing situations. Remain objective.
Seek feedback and criticism about yourself and your ideas from others. It is the most valuable market research you can obtain – and it’s totally free.
Be tolerant, patient, and calm. Particularly when others are agitated. Followers gather around calm people.
Always carry a pen. Always carry a diary. Always carry your business cards. (Or modern electronic equivalents of all three.)
Keep fit, or get fit, and then keep fit. Success and followers tend to gravitate towards people who take care of their bodies, as well as their thoughts and actions.
As soon as you can, create or have built a clean and clear website for yourself or your business. It is the ultimate universal calling card, brochure, and CV, all rolled into one, and perpetually available.
Only promise or offer what you can fully deliver and follow up. Always aim to under-promise, and then over-deliver.
Take great care with quick electronic messages (texts, messages, emails, etc). You will be amazed at how many misunderstandings and breakdowns in relationships occur because a message is wrongly interpreted. Check and read twice everything you send.
Always follow up everything that you say you will do, however small the suggestion.
If you accept a referral or introduction to someone always follow it through.
Say “Thank you” to people whenever the opportunity arises – especially to people who get taken for granted a lot.
Be interested in all people. Invest your time, attention and genuine understanding in them.
Understand what empathy really means, and practice it. Look people in the eyes. Listen with your eyes. This is about communicating at a deeper empathic level than business folk normally employ. Very many business discussions are superficial – like a game or a set of dance steps; instead make a determined effort to concentrate and care about the other person.
Find reasons to give positive feedback to people – give and mean it.
Stand up for what’s right and protect less strong people from wrong, especially where you see bullying, cruelty, discrimination, meanness, etc. You will hear it everywhere when you step back and out of the crowd.
Networking is about building a wide and relevant network of meaningful contacts – not just having lots of one-to-one meetings. Big, strongly connected networks inevitably capture more opportunities than networks with lots of holes and weak connections.
Choose your most trusted and closest associates very carefully – reputations are built according to the company you keep, beyond how you yourself behave.
Recommendations reflect powerfully on the recommender, therefore: Recommend only those people you are confident will reflect well on you, and always ensure you reflect brilliantly and memorably on anyone who recommends you.
Seek and take opportunities to make a positive difference towards a positive aim (of anyone’s) wherever you can – even if some of these opportunities are unpaid and unrewarded in conventional terms. You will learn a lot, create new opportunities for yourself, and develop a reputation for producing good results out of nothing. This is a powerful personal characteristic which people find completely irresistible.
Be clear and realistic about what you want when you are asked. Have a plan.
Ian Dickson – Business Speaker and Multi-Award Winning Business Coach.