10 Tips for More Effective Networking

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10 New Ways to Improve Your Networking Skills

If you network in your town, you likely go to Chamber of Commerce events. You attend weekly after-hours, before-hours and during-hours networking meet-ups. You drink cups of coffee. You drink mugs of beer. You smile and nod. All in the hopes of making more sales.

You’ve got it all wrong, baby.

Instead, here’s a networking tip: try a different approach. Attend only those networking events that give you the best opportunities to meet new people. Make small talk with more people and introduce yourself to as many people as possible. In the end, this approach will pay off in more sales.

network like Ray Access does

Leave the Pitch at Home

Networking is not the place to pitch prospects. If that’s what you’re doing, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. Eventually, you’ll join the ranks of naysayers who eschew shoulder-rubbing events for a cold beer and a ham sandwich at home — alone — where no one can get under your skin.

Networking is the place to meet interesting business people, learn what they do and who they do it with. It’s the place to see your peers and be seen as a helpful presence. With this approach, eventually you’ll start getting the calls asking for your professional help. People do business with those they like.

10 Tips to Take to the Bank

Get the most out of your networking by following this advice:

  1. Arrive early
  2. Make friends
  3. Keep your cards handy
  4. Leave a positive impression
  5. Learn something new
  6. Remember names
  7. Tell a good joke
  8. Laugh at a bad joke
  9. Make introductions
  10. Leave late

Intrigued? Remember networking tip #5 above and keep reading.

  1. Arrive early
    Sponsors, event coordinators and energetic networking nuts get to networking events early. As part of the “inner circle,” they often volunteer to do some task during the event. They know the benefits, and now you can too. Imagine how many more people you’d meet in an evening if you were the one pouring the beer. Think how popular you’d be if you got to hand out the door prizes. Networking is a participatory activity. Get involved. Get there early, and offer your assistance. You’ll come to be known for your generosity and willingness to help.
     
  2. Make friends
    People like to do business with people they trust — like their friends. Once you’ve seen someone around the local business circuit long enough, you realize they aren’t going anywhere. Introduce yourself. When you take time to get to know people — how many kids they have, for example, or what they do in their free time — you naturally feel a little closer to them. You develop a rapport. When they need something you offer, they’ll call a friend quicker than they would call a networking associate.
     
  3. Keep your cards handy
    While all the feel-good schmoozing is great for your reputation and friend status, your ultimate networking goal is to grow your business. We get that. So bring plenty of business cards to pass around. As a matter of fact, don’t leave home without them. Keep cards in easy-to-reach pockets or in the side pocket of your handbag where you can reach for them with ease and grace. Nothing blows an exit like making someone wait while you try to fish out a card from a messy handbag or a pocket stuffed with swag. For the best impression, always present your card so that it’s facing the person you’re handing it to.
     
  4. Leave a positive impression
    make a positive impression by listeningOne of the best ways to impress people is to listen. When you meet someone new, apply a firm handshake and look the person in the eyes. Make a connection. Pretend the two of you are the only ones in the room. No one feels good talking to someone who constantly looks around the room. That merely says, “I’ll ditch you if someone more important comes along.” Hold eye contact and respond appropriately to the speaker. When in the middle of a group, nod and laugh when everyone else does, they’ll think you’re one of them — and like you for it.
     
  5. Learn something new
    Time is precious for everyone. Salespeople, small business owners and CEOs all have a million things they need to do. You’re not the only one using up your valuable hours in the local beer hall or event facility trying to network. Use your time wisely and make it a priority to learn about a new product, discover a new way to use your smartphone, find out who just moved into town or how many seeds it takes to grow a watermelon. Leaving networking events with newfound knowledge makes you smarter and makes the best use of your time. (Little secret: people like people who ask questions.)
     
  6. Remember names
    Remembering names can be tough, especially when you meet a dozen or more new people at a single event. But don’t give up. Instead, consider it a challenge. A good exercise for your brain health is to try to remember at least 10 names during each networking event. The impression you’ll make the next time you see one of them and remember the name is priceless. You can’t buy that kind of marketing for any amount of money. This is one of the little secrets of networking that can build your business tremendously. And while you’re at it, you’re giving your brain a little workout.
     
  7. Tell a good joke
    laugh at a good joke... or a bad oneLaughter is like glue; it bonds people together. Laughter tells others in the room that you have a sense of humor and don’t take yourself too seriously — major personality pluses. If you feel uncomfortable telling a joke, practice. Keep your joke clean and free of cultural references. And find something relevant like: “Last week at this after-hours, I asked a guy why he left his last job. He told me it was illness-related. His old boss got sick of him.”
     
  8. Laugh at a bad joke
    Almost all people think they’re funny. Some are not. But a networking event is not the time embarrass anyone. Show good manners and laugh if someone tells a joke you’ve heard 17 times that week. Never make people feel uncomfortable. It will reflect poorly on you. If you’re kind and gracious, they’ll remember your kindness. They’ll know they can trust you. And you can be sure that they’ll call you when they need your product or service.
     
  9. Make introductions
    Of all the networking tips, this one is our favorite. It feels powerful when you’re the one in the know. Be the good guy or gal and introduce people you meet to people you know, especially when it may help either or both of them. Give a positive testimonial of their business or talk up their favorite hobbies or the big promotion they recently got. You’ll be remembered as the one who made the connection. You’ll be known as the one who has a finger in all the pies. You’ll gain a reputation as the one to get to know in business networking circles.
     
  10. Leave late
    On days when you don’t have to rush off to another meeting or return to the pile of work waiting for you, stick around to the very end of the networking event. There are always a few stragglers who still want to talk — or boast or rant. You never know whom you’ll run into when the room starts to clear. It’s very often after the last shrimp has been gobbled up and the tables are coming down that the really big, meaningful (and profitable) relationships are forged. Don’t miss it.

Posted by on February 18, 2015 in Small Business Advice

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