We live in a networking society. As a business owner, marketing manager or business development strategist, networking is crucial to generating and developing relationships. Here are a few Networking 101 basics to remember the next time you attend a business luncheon, cocktail party, or chamber of commerce social.
First, Remember to radiate optimism and realize that positive body language draws people in. When conversing with someone, become cognizant of your gestures, expressions, and tone of voice. How you say something can be more important than what you say. Did you know that on average, people absorb you 55% by visual – how you appear; 38% by tone – how you sound; and only 7% by content – what you say. (This is conservative; I’ve also heard the ratio 80% visual, 15% tonal, and 5% content). Forms of positive body language that draw people in include an enthusiastic tone, strong posture (uncrossing your arms with open shoulders), leaning toward the other person, a firm handshake, maintaining eye contact, and a smile.
OK, so you’re getting ready to go to the event. Arm yourself with props… your name badge and business cards to give out. Make it a game to obtain three business cards. My “Rule of Seven” instructs you to acquire three business cards from three brand new people, further three conversations with people you already know (but not necessarily well), and introduce two people you know (or just met) to each other. Have you 30-second elevator pitch ready: who you are, what you do, and why you are passionate about it.
I love the book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Dr. Stephen Covey because his seven habits are a beautiful roadmap to networking more effectively. His first habit is Be proactive. Take the first step…you make a point of crossing that crowded room to get to that person standing there all alone…or even that person who has a small line of people waiting to meet them. Second, Begin with the end in mind. What are you trying to achieve with this meeting? Are you establishing a possible business lead? Making a new friend? Perhaps this person has associates in THEIR sphere who are your target market? Why is it important to meet this person? Third, Put first things first. Establish a connection with eye contact, a warm smile, and a handshake. Details of your company, title, and business can come later… this is the time to establish a human connection. Research shows that most people decide whether or not they like you within the first seven seconds of meeting you, then they spend the rest of the conversation internally justifying their initial reaction.
Fourth, Think win/win. It’s not all about what you will gain; think about what will THEY gain in meeting or talking to you? What can you do for them? Often, a solid business relationship begins with being the first with the generous offer. Fifth, Seek first to understand, then to be understood. Listen! Repeat the person’s name, and then repeat it again at the end. You can learn more from listening than speaking. A good rule of thumb is to speak 20% and listen 80%. Dan Rather, our national voice of reason, said, “The best leaders are excellent listeners. Look people in the eye when they are talking to you.” Sixth, Synergize. Tony Robbins had a name for a style of active engagement: “Mirroring and Mimicking.” This refers to completely getting on the same page as the person you’re communicating with… imitating their posture and body language, using the same volume, cadence and pitch as theirs, echoing their vocabulary style, word choices, and accent. What happens is the other person subliminally feels comfortable and at ease with you because you are “on the same page.”
And finally, Sharpen the saw. Once a rapport is established, ask the more meaningful questions. Inquire about the details. If you have time for a more profound conversation, go deeper, and ask some more creative questions (this may be better for a lunch outing) such as What’s your story? What do you love about what you do (most people like to answer this question)? What challenges have you overcome? What is your greatest triumph?