How many times have you read that networking is essential for business success? While it’s true that you aren’t going to succeed by yourself, building professional relationships is only worth your time if they result in a professional benefit to you and your business.
That’s not to say that you should network with the intention of using somebody for profit but it does mean that you seek out people who are like-minded where a mutually beneficial relationship could exist. Aim for quality instead of quantity. Here’s how.
Forget being Fashionably Late
When you arrive early or on time, you’ll find others who have done the same thing. They haven’t found anybody to talk to and those small conversation circles haven’t formed. Take time, while the party or event is quiet and not in full-swing, to talk to those people who arrived early.
Find Events that Match Your Business
There’s nothing wrong with attending a community networking event but that will bring together people whose commonality is geography. You’ll have to initiate a lot of conversations to find people where you can add value to their business and them to yours.
Instead, look for events related to your industry, even if you have to pay a little more to attend. Do network outside of your industry but be efficient with your time and effort.
Make a Strong First Impression
Don’t wait for somebody to approach you. Be confident and approach others. First, smile. If you’re nervous, smiling helps to mask it. You also appear inviting to others. Introduce yourself with a firm handshake, and look the person in the eye.
Listen First, Speak Second
Start with an easy question, like “What brings you to this event?” Then, allow them to speak. By listening intently, you’ll find the right follow-up questions to keep the conversation going. When you allow people to talk about themselves, relationships form quickly.
But don’t forget the words of Dale Carnegie: Take a genuine interest in the lives of others. People know when you truly care. If you don’t, move on to somebody where you feel more comfortable.
Expect to Never Again Talk to Most
That might sound harsh but if you met 50 people at a certain event, you don’t have time in your work day to develop that many relationships. As you listen to others speak, you’ll quickly learn who represents a promising contact.
Only give your business card to people who are worth pursuing further. If others ask, give them your contact information but don’t be the person who gives their business card to everybody.
Quality professional contacts often start with something outside of business. Maybe both of you like baseball, working out, or browsing the mall. If they seem like a strong professional contact but they’re so annoying you can’t stand to talk to them, they’re not worth your time.
On the other hand, if they’re somebody you enjoy talking to but you’re not sure if they qualify as a professional contact, maybe a ball game and further conversation is worth your time. If nothing else, it will be a fun night out.
Networking isn’t about quantity. It’s about building quality relationships that be beneficial for both of you. But before all of that, it’s about meeting people and taking an interest in their lives. That’s something that all humans, at some level, are wired to do.
Register for our webinar, “Win Customers on the First Impression,” taking place July 23, by clicking here.