By: Victoria K. Munro
Networking is an art as well as a highly effective tool to grow most any business. Anyone can become an effective networker and enjoy the process, provided they're willing to invest a little time and energy. Just showing up and hoping for the best won't result in success. Apply the Six Secrets below and make networking work for you and your business.
Secret #1: Keep an Upbeat Attitude
Attitude is critical. Failure to maintain a positive, enthusiastic attitude towards networking is guaranteed to diminish your success. Put yourself in a good frame of mind by remembering that you can learn and benefit from everyone you meet.
Focus on what you'll gain. For example, you can:
â€¢ Get to know potential power partners and people who might be able to help your clients or who might eventually become clients themselves.
â€¢ Learn from other people's experiences as you listen to them.
â€¢ Make new friends.
Secret #2: Go with a Game Plan
Wear something unique that stands out and makes it easier for others to ask you questions and start a conversation. Pins, custom nametags or embroidered logos can also pique someone's curiosity and beg a question.
Create meaningful conversational starters. Instead of asking, "What do you do?" when you meet new people, you could ask:
â€¢ What do you enjoy most about networking?
â€¢ What do you find most rewarding (or challenging) about being a business owner?
â€¢ What are you passionate about?
Secret #3: Craft a Dynamic 30-Second Commercial
At most networking functions, you will be repeatedly asked what you do. Respond with a commercial that is:
â€¢ Emotionally engaging
â€¢ Succinct -- don't ramble
â€¢ Sincere and caring -- expressing genuine passion for what you do
â€¢ Intriguing -- causing people to ask more questions
Use strong visual language -- word pictures they'll remember. This will make it easier for them to refer you when they meet someone who needs your products or services. A friend who operates a pest control company gave the same short message at his leads group each week. "If it moves and you don't want it to, call me!" No one ever forgot what he did. A children's portrait photographer encourages potential clients to buy the gift that she guarantees mom-in-law will never return. Always focus on the benefits you offer.
Secret #4: Get a Great Business Card
Always carry an adequate supply of business cards, and make sure that your card truly reflects who you are and what you do. This may be the only representation of you and your company you'll leave with someone. Hire an expert to create a card that clearly, attractively and accurately portrays who you are and what you offer. A creative tag line can help explain even a complex concept and make it memorable.
Secret #5: Don't Focus on the Food
Plan to eat before arriving at an event. If that isn't possible, take care of your hunger first, then start networking. Don't try to mix the two. It's impossible to give someone your full attention while balancing a plate and glass and digging in a purse or pocket for a business card.
Secret #6: Make a Fabulous First Impression
There are no second chances at making a fabulous first impression! Business is built on relationships, and you're there to start building new relationships, not to sell your products or services. A key to making a good first impression is ensuring that the other person feels important, allowing him or her to bask in the spotlight.
Apply the secrets above and develop the fine art of networking to grow your business.