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7 Strategies For Successful Business Networking
As a business owner and sales consultant, networking is crucial to the stability and growth of my company. In this line of work, I long ago learned that success is as much about who you know as it is about what you know. You never know when you will meet that person who winds up leading you to your next big client or business partnership so it is important to keep the lines of communication open and be ready when opportunities present themselves.
So, what exactly makes for successful business networking? How can you be ready? Here are some strategies that will help you maximize your networking opportunities:
1. Clarify Your Own Networking Goals – The first step towards successful business networking is to clarify your own goals. You have to know what you hope to achieve out of your networking opportunities. Ask yourself what you are looking to get out of your interactions and what impression you want to leave with others. Be prepared with questions you want to ask as well as to explain who you are and what you have to offer. If you have a list in your mind of the key points you want people to know about you and your business, you will naturally be able to steer conversations to these topics and you won’t find yourself walking away wishing you had remembered to cover certain items.
2. Get Out There – One of the most important aspects of successful networking is simply to get out and start creating relationships! Sign up for seminars and conferences, visit special interest groups, join volunteer organizations, attend business luncheons, become a member of your local chamber of commerce, and take advantage of accidental meetings. The possibilities are endless so make sure that you are putting yourself out there and creating opportunities for connecting with other business people. The more contacts you make the better chances you have for positive professional relationship building.
3. Be Memorable – There is a strong association between yourself as a person and your company so it is important to leave a lasting and positive impression on everyone you meet. You have to make yourself stand out. Play up your distinctive characteristics, create a strong presence, and engage in lively conversations. Most people won’t remember long and drawn out descriptions of what you do so try to focus on what makes you or your business unique and reinforce these key points to your audience.
4. Be Genuine – People can spot insincerity from a mile away. Remember, networking is about building relationships and trust with other people so you don’t want to come off as artificial or dishonest. Take a genuine interest in the person you are talking to, ask questions, maintain eye contact and be fully present in the moment and the conversation.
5. Business Cards – Business cards speak volumes about who you are and what you do so have professional business cards created and then never leave home without them! Make it a habit to carry an ample number of them in your purse or wallet at all times and give them away freely. Practice good etiquette when giving out your business cards by always asking for one back. Make the person who gives you his or her business card feel valued by taking a moment to look over their card before putting it away. This helps to build relationships by demonstrating your interest in the other person and may inspire some further conversation.
6. Become a Resource For Others – Position yourself as an expert so that people turn to you for advice, suggestions, ideas, and names of other people. Being a strong resource to others keeps you visible and makes it more likely that those you have helped will refer others to you as well.
7. Timely Follow Up - This is one thing most people fail to do. A prompt follow up is absolutely imperative in order to continue the relationship building process. If you have exchanged business cards with someone, a follow up can be as simple as a short “it was great to meet you” email or phone call reiterating what you have to offer. This makes it more likely the person will think of you for future opportunities. If you have discussed business specifics, a follow up can be all that is needed to close the deal. Follow up with the details, ask if you can meet to share ideas, and make it easy for them to close with you and not your competitor.
Hopefully some of these ideas will come in handy as you continue working to expand your network! The more solid business contacts you make the more you are multiplying you chances for success.
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