6 Business Networking Tips for Success
There are people who relish nothing more than having the opportunity to get into a room full of potential prospects and work their magic.
There are more people who would avoid it.
What do you do if you have to network, but find it ranks up there with having teeth removed or facing a firing squad?
Fear not, here are a few networking tips to make it easier for even the most reticent networker.
If you’re an introvert – or even if you’re not – there’s a very high chance that you don’t like networking. Or at the very least, you would prefer to do something else. Anything else, in fact. The truth is many people cite networking as the aspect they like least about running their own business, charity or social enterprise.
So, what do you do if you don’t like networking, but want to get the most out of a networking event?
1. Repeat someone’s name when you are introduced to them.
I have a terrible memory for names. There’s a woman I went to school with who remembers the name of everyone in our class. And I mean, at high school AND primary school.
She frequently says things like: ‘remember so and so, from Form A, with the blonde hair? You do know her, you do!‘ and of course, I never know who she means.
However, I have learned that the best way to ensure that I will remember a name (apart from asking for their business card, of course) is to instantly repeat it back to the person I’ve just been introduced to.
You don’t have to look like an idiot when you do this. You can phrase it in such a way that you sound as though you’re confirming that you’ve heard them correctly. People don’t mind you checking you’ve got their name right the first time you’ve met them. They do mind when you get it completely wrong the next time – especially if they’ve remembered yours.
I have no idea why this works. It’s something to do with the way that pathways are formed in our brains, but repeating a name will file it into your memory and make it easier to recall at a later date.
2. Listen more than you talk
Yes, you read that right. The object of the exercise is not for you to wax lyrical for hours on end, boring everyone you meet to tears with the intricacies of your work and how important it is. The key to making an impression is to:
- engage who you’re talking with by telling them about your work in a short, compelling way. For example, tell them something surprising about your organization or the people that you work with, or talk a new project that you’re developing
- then ask them what they think about what you’ve told them. This also works if you ask their opinion on a burning question or a new project that you’re working on. You then have to shut up and listen to what they have to say.
It’s a cliché, I know, but we have two ears and one mouth, and it’s better to use them in the proportion in which they were given.
3. Be interested in what people have to say
Following on from the listening tip, you want to look and sound interested rather than just behaving like a nodding dog. This is a conversation after all.
While you should initially zip it and give them the chance to speak, you do actually want to talk WITH them, and the key here is to take the lead from them, rather than steering it around to your own agenda all the time.
You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.
4. Don’t get stuck with one person
This is an art and I know that it’s easy to get stuck with one person as you don’t want to appear rude.
However, networking opportunities are about spreading your networks, so engage with people, listen to what they have to say, and then take the opportunity to move on (once you’ve swapped details, of course).
This is easier than you would think, and one trick is to switch the focus to them. A ‘moving on’ opener that can work well is:
‘Thank you so much for your time. Please don’t let me take it all up. I know you’re here to meet other people too, and I’ll be in touch to discuss xxx’.
5. Make sure you swap contact details/business cards
Take plenty with you to hand out and if the person you’re speaking with doesn’t have any, make sure you have either a small pocket book and pen or jot their details down on the back of one of your own cards. Just make sure that’s not the one you hand back to them.
6. Follow up
Don’t leave it for weeks on end or until you have something specific to ask before you get back in touch (like ‘will you give us some money, please?’).
Ideally, you want to get in touch within a week, and it’s good to send a quick ‘lovely to meet you/I’ll be in touch’ holding email within 48 hours, if possible.
Of course, not everyone will be a hot prospect but an email to touch base will take no time at all and you never know when or how that contact could help you in the future.
This becomes even easier if you have a standard follow up email that you can adapt – ‘good to talk to you about xxx’ or ‘I’d be interested in meeting to discuss yyy in more detail’.
Networking is a skill. However, while some people are born with the ability to engage people naturally, like every skill, networking is something that you can learn and improve on.
Those are 6 business networking tips to ensure that you get the most out of networking events in the future. Do you have any others to add? Or have any of these worked particularly well for you in the past?
Please let me know in the comments below, and of course, if you know someone who would benefit from this article, please share it using the share buttons above.