Business networking is often considered a necessary evil and how to successfully work a room is a dreaded area even for most professionals. In a social setting which is casual yet work-related, it’s difficult to understand the kind of mannerisms and etiquettes that can make your investment worth the deal.
Here are a few noteworthy rules of conduct for effective networking.
1. Get to know people before pitching: When you meet new people, it’s easy to jump right into pitching your product at the first opportunity you get. Instead, try to first build a rapport with the other person; listen to him or her sincerely and get to know him better before you pitch.
2. Listen carefully and sincerely: During a conversation, keep your mobile phones on silent, and you should avoid checking emails or texting or glancing around to find out other potential prospects. This makes you look unprofessional and apathetic. What you should rather do is focus on the current conversation, create an eye contact, ask relevant open-ended questions, and be receptive. And when it’s time to talk, do not create a limited identity for yourself.
3. Do not limit your identity: Listening is an art and so is speaking. The way you introduce yourself and what you wear can make or break a potential relationship. Introducing yourself with your name along with your business name and profession and/or wearing a company shirt may send the wrong message. It’s best to dress professionally, introduce yourself with your first name, a firm handshake and a smile on your face, and go with the flow of the conversation. Gauge body language and facial expressions, and when it is apt, politely offer details and exchange cards and figure out a way to make the relationship mutually beneficial.
4. Offer genuine help: Now that you are well aware of what your potential prospects are looking for, try to help them in the best possible way. Refer them to a friend who might be of help, or make a note while saving their contact info using your ScanBizCards app, and later send them some relevant articles, blogs or other content. At all costs, maintain professionalism, stay humble, and ask politely and precisely for the help that you need once you have done your bit to help them.
5. Ask for help: Usually, your efforts are reciprocated by the business community. The people you help also want to know what you are looking for. You can begin your elevator speech and modify it as per your current audience if you feel they are truly interested. Be specific about what you really want – the real pain points, and how do you propose to resolve them. Speak in a language your audience understands and go slow but try not to spend more than 7-8 minutes with someone new to cover the territory.
6. Cover the room gracefully: Go around, get to know people, but wrap up quickly with those who are not your potential prospects or those who appear uninterested. And try not to leave someone standing alone. Introduce him/her to someone you know or head to where other people are mingling. While socializing, know your drink limit and avoid eating messy food, and make sure that you do not forget to follow up with people later.
7. Follow up: Follow through if you say you’ll be in touch. Scan your business cards on your phone using a card scanner app, set reminders, and jot down details. Make sure to note common interests and suggestions for future reference. Send thank you emails with an intro about yourself, and send some interesting but relevant stuff to the potential prospects. Initially engage with them online, and then offer to meet them in-person to discuss how to take this relationship further.
Simply follow the above rules, and you don’t need to force yourself to schmooze with fifteen odd people or act as a social butterfly for successful networking. Your approach will help you tap into the opportunities that in-person networking events present. However, there is also a huge online networking opportunity which should not be overlooked. With a large number of Millennials in the workforce, internet is becoming a popular medium for businesses, and networking through social media is on the rise. So, in our next blog, we will be talking about Business Netiquettes.