The 8 P’s of Professional Networking Success

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Effective Networking for Small Business Owners & Professionals

Probe: Ask questions & Listen

Plan

Right people, Right places, Right way

Creating a networking plan can help you to be more focused in your approach. Set realistic objectives when you are networking and accept that networking is a long-term proposition (set realistic goals).

One of the most difficult aspects of networking is to choose the events and opportunities that are the most beneficial to you and your business. To make it easier, first identify what you want to gain by defining your business and professional goals. Then, create a 90-day calendar of events (where and when) that will put you face-to-face with your target audiences.

To narrow down the list of opportunities, ask yourself these questions:

  • Who do you want or need to connect with? Describe your ideal contacts in detail.
  • What industries do they work in?
  • What are their key business challenges, and how can you help to overcome them?
  • What associations do they belong to? What events have they attended?

A good goal is to attend a minimum of one event every two weeks. That way, you’re not overwhelmed by the time commitment and you’ll still be a frequent-enough participant to demonstrate motivation and dedication.

Prepare

  • Mindset is one of the most important aspects of preparation.
    • For some people networking is not fun or enjoyable. Even so, if you are setting out to build relationships and increase contacts you must be PRESENT in that activity. Get yourself into a state of mind where you not only accept the task at hand, but are relaxed in your mission for the duration.
  • Arm yourself with information (ex. who will be there, RESEARCH them and their companies)
    • Once you’ve targeted your events, try to research the people who will be attending (check out event- or organization-specific social media pages on LinkedIn® and Facebook® to start).
  • Goals
    • Figure out the top ten people that you’d like to meet at each event (always keep in mind that, while it’s important to connect strategically, you never want to turn away a possible connection).
  • Elevator Pitch
    • Prepare a compelling elevator pitch (60 seconds max.) that answers who you are and what you do. Tell your story to connect and captivate. Do NOT use your pitch to sell a product.
  • Business Cards
    • Bring twice as many as you think you will need. Keep your business card in one pocket or pouch and place collected cards from that evening in a separate pocket or pouch.
  • Name Tag
    • Always swear your name-tag as it helps other place your face with your name and makes recall easier.
  • Prepare talking points
    • Develop a couple of questions that will help draw out the audience you are hoping to reach. When you ask questions that engage, others will feel more at ease and a greater rapport with you.

Portray

First impressions form quickly and the mark you make will significantly impact your chances of success. Decide how you want to be perceived and then develop a plan to create that impression. The following behaviors will lead to a positive perception:

  • Always arrive on-time, better yet 5 minutes early, if attending a formal networking event
  • Show interest in the people you meet.
  • Engage on an authentic level.
  • Have confidence and a firm handshake.
  • Find some common ground and make a human connection
  • Tell them your why
  • Focus on nonverbal communication

Personalize

Make a few personal connections

  • Invest time and energy into your conversations, because longer conversations will be far more beneficial
  • Start by building rapport, finding a connection with the other person and displaying a genuine interest in others and in helping them. You may need to adapt your approach and style to suit your audience.
  • Pay careful attention to your conversations with target connections – and right after each interaction, use the backs of their business cards to write one or two key takeaways from your talk. This will help to personalize your follow-up emails and calls so that you connect in a more meaningful way.
  • Avoid the trap of spending your time with people you know. Try to speak to new people.

Probe

The ability to ask good questions and listen makes you a good conversationalist. Utilize open-ended questions and then ask follow-up questions based on what you just heard.

  • Offer your own insights, experiences and ideas to make it interesting – only as it is relevant to the conversation.
  • Do not try to dominate the conversation by comparing yourself to the individual you are speaking with.
  • Focus on looking for opportunities to help the other person – remember this is not about you, it’s about them.
  • Avoid the trap of spending your time with people you know. Try to speak to new people.

Protocol

  • Follow basic networking etiquette
  • Introductions are important, as is the ability to move gracefully and politely between people.
  • Making other people feel comfortable helps you to also feel more comfortable (empathy goes a long way).
  • Be aware of gender differences when interacting.
  • Avoid the trap of spending your time with people you know. Try to speak to new people.

Pursue

  • Write personalized follow up notes
  • Send a thank-you email immediately following the event
  • Call or email to schedule a lunch or coffee meeting
  • Send an article, story or photo via email of tidbit from conversation
  • Offer yourself as a resource

Pull it all together

  • Organize your contacts and make notations
  • Develop a system to record details about the people in your network.
  • Design a system to maintain regular contact with people.
  • Make introductions among those in your circle that may benefit from meeting each other

THIS MAKES YOU A RESOURCE

It might seem like hard work, but there is a reason it’s not called “net-easy” or net-relax,” because it is WORK! Rest assured once you have honed your skills it does become enjoyable work though. If you are doing a lot of networking, try introducing one or two of these tips at a time until you are practiced and they become second-nature.

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By | 2018-01-05T13:09:43+00:00 January 5th, 2018|Creative, Latest Articles|