Ivan Misner, founder and chief visionary officer of the US-based networking organisation BNI, defines business networking as “leveraging your business and personal connections to bring you a regular supply of new business.”
The process, while sounding simple enough, can actually prove fairly complex. Effective networking relies on your ability to connect with people and build relationships.
It certainly involves more than pushing your business card into the palms of strangers at a monthly event.
There are many ways to improve your business networking skills but your answers to the following five questions may offer an insight into how you can start doing so today.
What Do You Do?
When meeting new people, whether at a networking event or elsewhere, the question of what you do is almost guaranteed to crop up. It’s a tried and tested icebreaker and one which you have no business being ill-prepared for. By crafting a response that goes beyond nervously rattling off your job title and the name of your company, you open up the possibility of creating interest and an ongoing dialogue. Think of it as your own personal elevator pitch.
Are You Credible?
People tend to conduct business with people they already know and trust. Getting to know someone shouldn’t prove too difficult but gaining their trust requires more effort. Trust often comes down to a matter of credibility, specifically yours. There are many techniques you can use to build business credibility and become referral worthy: among them, being honest, promoting your achievements and endorsements, and being an expert in your field.
How Well Do You Know Your Network?
Having a list of contacts is one thing but knowing more about the people on it is another entirely. When meeting people in your network, or even for the first time, try to be a good listener rather than continually monopolising the conversation. By doing so, you will gain a better insight of who the most important people in your network are and, thus, understand who you can help and who is potentially able to help you.
Have You Made a Call Today?
While a chance meeting can often yield amazing results, relying on the small probability of bumping into someone on the street is not the savviest business decision. Is there anyone on your list of contacts that you haven’t caught up with for a while? Give them a call to see what they have been up to and use the chance to tell them about your news. They may not have any business for you today but you never know what tomorrow will bring.
What Book Are You Reading?
It is said that knowledge is power and this is particularly the case in business. There’s an army of people out there who are already successful thanks in part to their ability to network effectively. Lucky for us, many of them have shared their story of the route to the top. Committing to reading just a chapter of a top networking book each day equals a commitment to better yourself. In turn, you become a more desirable contact in your network.
Make a promise to yourself that you will improve at business networking. Your future self will thank you for it.
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