Networking comes very easy to some but we all know too well that meeting strangers can leave some people feeling very uneasy. To ease the pain, here are 10 easy to follow steps to get you started on the right track. In the world of business mingling, practice makes perfect and the more people you meet and the larger your contact list gets, the quicker you will become known as a person “to know” within your local business community.
1. Networking is about being genuine and authentic, building trust and relationships, and seeing how you can help others before you ask others to help you.
2. Be selective when participating in networking meetings so that you will 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. Visit as many groups as possible to determine where your sweet spot is. Take notice of the tone and attitude of the group. Do the people sound supportive of one another? Does the leadership appear competent? Is there a monetary investment and if so does it have the potential to pay off?
4. Hold volunteer positions in organizations that have a good reputation in the community. Not only are you giving back but the return can be enormous.
5. Ask open-ended questions in networking conversations. This means questions that ask who, what, where, when, and how as opposed to those that can be answered with a simple yes or no. This form of questioning opens up the discussion and shows listeners that you are interested in them.
6. Become known as a powerful referral 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.
7. Have a clear understanding of what you do, 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 so that you can easily articulate it to others.
8. Be able to articulate what you are looking for and how others may help you. Too often people in conversations ask, “How may I help you?” and no immediate answer comes to mind.
9. 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.
10. Make sure if you are wearing a name tag that you wear it on your right side. When you shake hands with someone it is in their direct line of sight and they will not feel uncomfortable if they want to see your name or where you are from!
Just remember, no contact is a bad contact so get out there and start connecting!