Networking is a powerful tool for all business people and professionals. Taking a small-business-focus, utilising your existing networks and continuing to grow these networks are essential for your success. These networks should be grown from your internal social circle and extent outwards to your business contacts.
Over the weekend I was fortunate to attend an event which brings together people from all over Australian and the world. This event is one of my favourites to attend as I am fortunate enough to catch-up with friends I grew up with but only see a few times a year. Through this social network I have created key business contacts. One is my Accountant, another my Bookkeeper, one is my Insurance Broker and I even caught up with my Business Mentor. All exceptionally skilled individuals in their profession who have created contacts through our social circle. When I spoke with each of them over the weekend, there was an element of work discussed, and during these conversations it was found that each of us had a referral opportunity of the other.
Attending business events, professional development days and seminars are also important not just for the content that they provide, but for the networking opportunities that follow, Keeping you and your business front of mind for everyone in your network is key for organic and referral business growth.
We know networking works! Online tools such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter are so successful, because they were built on the presumption that their social networking tools help people build networks and remain better connected than ever. If you are clever and keep things professional you can use these tools to combine your social networks and your business networks to create a super-network.
Growing up an introvert, it was often challenging to 'network' and grow networks. Something as simple as 'small-talk' was a daunting task. Years of practising and perfecting my methods, I am still finding new ways to build on these networking soft skills.
Here are some of my tips for networking that you can use to ensure a great connection between you and your network individuals:
1) Be prepared: Always have a Business card ready to hand over;
2) Be fresh: Have access to breath mints or gum for a comfortable conversion;
3) Be firm: Start the conversation with a firm hand shake;
4) Be informed: A knowledge of current events is essential to any networking conversion;
5) Be positive: A positive attitude and a warm engaging personality will ensure both parties feel at ease;
6) Be funny: Have one or two really funny clean jokes or puns ready should the time come to use them;
7) Be helpful: Where possible offer helpful information;
8) Be proactive: Leave the conversation with a willingness to follow-up;
9) Be alert: It is important to make good eye contact and show you are engaging with the other person;
10) Be smart: Don’t outstay your welcome, if the conversation has wound up and there is not much else to say, move away leaving them with a sense of wow that was a great chat.
If you are like me, practice is key. Use your social circle to practice and perfect your skills. When you are ready, every time you meet someone new (even if it is the lady at the check-out counter at Woolworths), make sure you say hi and ask them a question, this will ensure you are comfortable around people you don't know, slowly building on the above 10 skills.