The Dos and Don'ts of Networking
Macro's Mark Graham explains the art of networking
This piece was written by Mark Graham, director of corporate services, Macro.
A cursory glance at any dictionary will provide you with an explanation or definition of the word networking. Such definitions are open to interpretation and subsequently there are several forms of networking.
When it comes down to it though, there are a few key things that one should aim to be proficient at, if networking is to be beneficial. Here are my top tips for successful networking:
• Don’t go to networking events focusing on getting clients. Your focus should be on getting to know people. They may never do business with you directly, but in time they could refer numerous new clients to you. Without first developing a relationship with them, that will never materialise.
• Do be approachable and allow others to feel at ease. Smile and remember that networking is all about building relationships, so just be yourself. Try to put the best possible “you” forward and find common ground.
• Don’t focus on what someone can do for you, cultivate the soft skill of connecting people. Build trust and try to be an invaluable resource for others.
• Do try to give colourful interesting answers instead of boring or mundane ones. When someone asks you how you are, perhaps reply with “on top of the world” or “better than a million dollar winner” and watch the conversation open up.
• Don’t be shy. If it’s your first time, chances are it’s someone else’s also. In fact, there are always those who simply don’t feel comfortable in a networking environment. Seek these people out and try to make them feel comfortable, include those who are not connecting. Otherwise, you may never know who these people are.
• Do ask open-ended questions to get the conversation going. These are more useful than closed questions with “yes” or “no” answers. Stay with your contact and ask him/her more questions about themselves or their business, cultivate the skill of effective listening. Be interested in your new connection.
• Don’t be afraid. Why don’t people start conversations? Fear. As with most things, practice makes perfect so the more often you let go of your fear and start conversations, the better you will be. Be active when you are networking instead of passive, this will hone your skills.
• Do follow up on any referrals you receive and thank everyone who refers you and/or connects you. Recognition is a powerful button, so don’t forget to push it every chance you get. Remember if someone refers you, ultimately they have endorsed you and you have a duty to live up to their expectations. Do this diligently and your referrals will increase.
• Don’t cross your arms. Body language is important and this can close you off to potential conversation as it says “I’m not interested, don’t approach my personal space”.
• Do be prepared for the inevitable question, “…what do you do?” and be sure you are able to articulate this concisely to others when asked. Wait to be asked before jumping in and volunteering this information. Remember not to get carried away, don’t launch into a sales pitch. Would you propose marriage after introducing yourself for the first time?
• Don’t play the numbers game by simply handing out business cards. It’s a fruitless way to double your company’s budget for business cards. Remember that quality is better than quantity.
• Do get in touch with those you meet after the event. A simple follow up call or email to say that you enjoyed meeting them and look forward to meeting again. If appropriate, ask if it is possible to set up another meeting.
• Don’t shun or hide the name tag. Remember, everyone else is wearing - or is expected to wear - one too. They can be a source of information to break the ice by making you more approachable. It is also free advertising for you and your company.
• Do always have an up to date business card. Don’t miss out on valuable relationships and opportunities because you are not prepared and up to date. Be professional.
• Don't jump in with your sales pitch. The hard sell will end your conversation magnificently. Build a rapport and if you have colleagues or other contacts with you, make introductions.
• Do enjoy. You never know what the outcome of meeting someone new will be.
Enjoy your networking and hopefully my top tips will help to create more connections, opportunity, and even friendships.