If you are a small business entrepreneur, no doubt you have attended your share of networking meetings and events. You have probably taken time away from your business operations to travel across town to attend breakfasts, luncheons, dinners, mixers, and happy hours, expos, meet-n-greets and shake-n-bakes. All the miles, all the hours, all the money you invest in your networking activities and you think…what is it all for? Where is all of this getting me? Or, if you are on the proactive side, you may be asking "is there a simple process to improve your networking skills?
The good news is, yes...there is a simple process to improve your networking skills. This article will provide you 5 easy to follow, fool-proof ways to improve your networking skills. And, you will also discover that your current networking results have more to do with your intentions, than your activities.
What do I mean?
Let’s start with a simple review of what Networking is and isn’t.
What is Networking?
Networking is an active and systematic process of meeting people and linking them for the purpose of exchanging information. It is through a network of people that resources and opportunities are located and shared.
Every human being, young and old, has a network. Networks exist in schools, in the gym, at church, on the bus, in professional meetings, at work, and through friends and family. Everywhere we go, and everything we do, poses the opportunity for networks to expand. In the business world, professionals rely on social and professional clubs, community and charitable associations, civic groups, and chambers of commerce to increase their networks.
Yet for all of the networking that is presently being done around the world, very few business owners are actually achieving their desired results. The reason for this is simple. The sad truth is that most business owners do not understand the purpose of networking. Even those who pride themselves as skilled in the art are under the mistaken impression that the reason for networking is to meet someone who will buy their product or service. While finding a new customer is a good side benefit, it has very little to do with what should be the main purpose of networking.
If you have never heard it before, then I will tell you here. The primary reason for your networking activities should be for you to find an opportunity to be of service to another.
Yes, you read this correctly. Now let’s make sure you understand it.
Have you ever heard the phrase, no one cares what you know until they know that you care?
Well, it does not matter what you do for a living, the bottom line is that you must show others that you care about them. No, this does not mean that you have to give them money, gifts, feed them, or provide them a place to live, unless of course they are your own children.
One sure fire way to let people know you care, is to find out what their needs and desires are. You do not need to mention your product or service at all until you find a need, want or desire for your product. And, if your conversation, short or long identifies the need for something that you do not offer, refer them to someone that does provide it.
Alright, here are the top 5 strategies that you can implement right away to improve your networking skills:
1. When you meet someone new at a networking event, as quickly as you can, find a need, want, or desire of the person you are networking with. For example, you may be a photographer, but you meet a new person that is a Realtor. In your conversation you happen to learn the Realtor is unhappy with her web site and needs a web designer. Keep this information handy, as it may come in handy if you decide you want to build a relationship with the Realtor.
2. Do what you can to meet one or more of those needs, whether or not it benefits you directly. For example, on the way to your office the next day, you stop for coffee and run into a web designer that you had met at an event several weeks back. You offer to introduce the web designer to the Realtor.
3.Follow up within a day or two by phone or email, to let the person know that you are working on, or that you have located a resource or referral they are looking for. For example, call the Realtor, remind her of when and where you met, and say that you really enjoyed the conversation you had together. Then you say, "You happened to mention frustration with your web site and the need for a web designer". At this point you make the introduction.
4.Learn more about the other person than they will learn about you, and
5.Listen -- when someone else is talking to you.
I am confident that if you follow these suggestions, you will not only improve your networking skills, you will also experience greater satisfaction in your business.