Ten tips on business networking

1. Listen – Active Listening Skills are critical to building healthy business relationships with those people you meet. Listen with meaning, don’t jump in, eliminate distractions, avoid pre-conceived ideas, have great eye contact and be aware of your Body Language, Smile and show compassion, face the person, be relaxed and most of all be yourself !
2. Keep it Simple – Have the ability to communicate effectively who you are and what you do – practise you elevated pitch. How many times do we meet people who won’t stop talking or you are no wiser after they have explained what they do?
3. Have Business Cards – You will be asked for a business card ensure you have one that represents your business professionally and carry upto 50 with you i.e. don’t run out! Don’t push your card onto people and avoid the business card collection unless the contact will be helpful to you.
4. Help someone else – You know what it was like when you were new to networking and you are not sure how and when to start a conversation. Draw new faces into your conversation and make them feel important. Ensure you keep your Body Language in check to allow others to join the conversation i.e. not face to face but with an opening with someone to join. In some important conversations you might not wish others to join you and therefore face to face discussions would normally give out this message.
5. Promises to Deliver – if you do make promises to someone make sure you follow up especially if you offering to open a door to one of your clients or contacts. If you have helped someone then quite often it will come around where they will try to do the same for you. Remember false promises leave lasting wrong impressions.
6. People buy from People – ensure you build and maintain strong business relationships. Be mindful of the time you are spending with someone you know and politely move onto others in the room you haven’t met before.
7. Selling at people – we all hate it so avoid being the double glazing salesman approach at the networking event – you will find people will avoid you next time around. Be remembered for all the right reasons unlike the guy with a clipboard or those with multiple leaflets and handouts you don’t really want.
8. Personal Space and joining others – Understand group body language so you know when to join a group and when you are about to interrupt at a vital stage – gently edged into a group if they are not having a closed conversation and ask if you can join them. Be mindful when you are stepping into someone’s personal space i.e. getting too close. Keep a check of your Body Language and the tone of your voice – demonstrating passion (tempered) for your business and interest in them will leave the right impression. Remember to smile and you will find more people are more likely to speak to you. How many times has someone got too close to you at an event? Especially those with bad breath or have rushed to the event and are sweating heavily. Arrive early and ensure you check your breath beforehand – simple advice but any odour can leave a lasting impression.
9. Building a Professional Reputation – Your approach to others will reflect back on you and your business. First impressions really count! Some people I have met over the years don’t have a good reputation (at business networking events and in general) and I would therefore be polite and move on quickly. You will often meet your competition at Business Networking events and I would always recommend build strong business relationships with them to discuss opportunities for cross-referring clients. There is an element of risk and I have experienced this through one or two training partners who lacked the intergrity later in the relationship. You need to make the call and test the water without simply dismissing the opportunity. Also consider the use of power groups where you join forces with different companies that are after the same group of clients – great for cross referring your clients where there is no risk to your business.
10. Do network – get the balance right between all forms of networking that work for your business and don’t rely purely on one form of marketing. Do get out and promote the business at business and social events gently without overselling. Do prepare for each event and get a list of the people attending so you can target those people you want to meet in good time. I always smiled when someone told me about a referral they picked up at a Wedding in Ireland for me …. networking is a funny thing.

I hope you find these tips helpful.

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