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As a professional business networker, with a genuine talent for matching businesses to develop fruitful and relevant partnerships – I am often asked for my ‘top networking tips’.
Not as simple as it sounds, as different situations require a different set of skills and application – however, I’ve thought long and hard about what I’ve learned from my years of business networking – and so here are 7 tried and tested successful business networking tips to not only help you with your business networking but also to consider how to leverage the partnerships you create
Have a genuine desire to help others. This all important factor is critical. It’s not all about ‘you’ but rather what you can be doing for others. Be authentic in your approach to build trusting and lasting relationships. Your desire to genuinely help others will shine through. Work on the basis of ‘what goes around comes around’. At BNI we refer to this as ‘giver’s gain’.
Be focused. If you’re working hard at making contacts and participating in face to face networking events then ensure that you have set up some clear end goals. I love the saying…’those that aim for nothing hit it with remarkable accuracy’ – so set yourself some deliverables that you can measure. Whether it’s to grow your network by 100 purposeful business connections by the end of the year, or to gain 5 new business appointments through networking in 6 months – whatever your goals – set something to aim for.
You have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince. Keep this is mind. Finding the right contacts and networks doesn’t happen overnight. It is a bit of a long haul – you may get lucky first time, but usually it’s a case of reaping the rewards once you’ve put in the effort. Therefore, keep at it, check out different groups and find one that has the right sort of connections for you. When visiting a potential network be auditing the group when you’re there. Is the leadership competent? Are these the right type of connections for you? Is this a proactive and enthusiastic team of networkers? Most groups enable you to visit at least a couple of times before you make a commitment – so do your due diligence and be sure you align yourself with the right tools for the job.
Similar to Tip #2 – just as you have to have a genuine desire to help others – you therefore, have to have a genuine desire in finding out about others too. Learn how to engage with others and ask the right questions. Asking open ended questions such as – who, what, where, when and how, as these help to get and keep a conversation flowing. Effectively, you want to find out as much as you can about your contacts’ businesses – as that way, you’re equipped with knowledge which you can then share with others when appropriate. Also – people tend to like talking about themselves, so it’s a great way to engage and show that you’re interested.
Grow your reputation as a powerful resource for others. Having been a professional business networker for many years now – I have created a rich repository of contacts and information. If a business contact of mine is looking for a product or service – through my vast resource of genuine contacts, it’s unlikely that I won’t be able to make a personal recommendation. Therefore, my knowledge is a useful resource for others. This results in people asking me for referrals all the time – and I truly enjoy putting the right people together. It’s effectively being a perfect match maker for business. Become useful to others – and this grows your reputation and your visibility.
Clarity in all you do. At BNI we challenge all our business networking members to be able to articulate, very clearly, what they do and what they are looking for from others in just ’60 seconds’. Being able to clearly communicate what you do, why you do it, and for whom you do it and the benefits you deliver in a short space of time is a true art – and one certainly worth practising. Think long and hard about these things and practice your ’60 seconds’ – make this not only your mantra, but if relevant, your teams’ too.
Strike whilst the iron’s hot and act on referrals quickly. If someone puts their reputation on the line and refers you and sends you the lead details, then be sure you follow up in a timely matter – and by that, I mean act quickly. Even if you don’t think the lead is right for you, be courteous, follow up and explore – the least you will do is keep your referrer happy and make a new contact