Business networking is an effective low-cost marketing strategy for developing sales contacts and opportunities, based on referrals and introductions either face to face at meetings or gatherings, or by other contact methods such as phone, email, or social and business networking websites. Business networking links together individuals who, through trust and relationship building, become walking, talking advertisements for one another. It is interacting with others to exchange information and develop professional or social and sales contacts. It is not about what you know; it is about who you know. The term 'networking' can be confused with computer networks which means connection and accessibility of multiple computer systems.
The ten most important principles for effective business networking either through face-to-face, organized events, business social networking websites, etc. are described below:
Describe yourself concisely and impressively. This is commonly called an “elevator speech” as if you were to meet a potentially important contact for the first time, let say in an elevator at a conference and he/she ask “what do you do?”. You have just 20 seconds or less to present yourself between floors as the elevator moves, with an impressive impact that the person asks for your contact details. If you talk (or write) too much, the person will become bored, or think you are rude or too self-centered. You need to be concise in your speech, this means, to demonstrate consideration and expertise by conveying your most relevant points in as short a time as possible. After presenting yourself it is good to end with a question. This enables more to happen than letting the discussion tail off nowhere or into polite small-talk. For example, depending on the situation and visible reaction after presenting yourself you may ask "What is your interest in this event?" this opens up discussion.
Figure out who should be in your network. When you want to build a strong business networking, you need to avoid relying just on your lunch partners. Questions you need to ask yourself are: Who can help me? Who knows what is going on? Who gets around roadblocks? Who are the critical links in the supply or information chain? Etc... Your boss can be of big help to you; for example, setting up meetings, introducing you at conferences and conventions, and also making introductory phone calls. But you should not rely solely on your boss; you need to create your own contacts. With some creativity you can identify people who will prove valuable.
Be a positive influence on everyone and everything.Use positive language and always smile. See the good in people. Be known as a really positive person. Keep your emotional criticisms of others and personal hang-ups to yourself and speak ill of no-one. Be passionate and enthusiastic, but not emotional or subjective and also avoid personalizing situations. Remain objective.When you are known as a strong resource, people remember to turn to you for ideas, suggestions, names of other people, etc. This keeps you visible to them.
Ask for help. It is not easy for many people to ask for help. Some people think it makes them look unknowledgeable while others believe that asking for help makes them appear as if they are lazy or unmotivated and for many others, they simply never developed the habit of asking for help. If you don’t ask for help, you may not have all the information you need for a proposal. For example, you could be late on a project because you didn’t understand exactly what was expected of you or you didn’t tap into resources that could have helped you complete it on time.
Ask open-ended questions in networking conversations. This means questions that ask who, what, where, when, and how as opposed to those questions that can just be answered with a simple yes or no. Open-ended questioning opens up the discussion and shows listeners that you are interested in them.
Know where you are and where you are going. Set goals and go for them. Keep your eye on your dream and work hard to achieve it. Write down your goals and keep them somewhere you will see them. Set goals for how you want to work with new friends and business acquaintances to build a business and/or personal network.
Plan your networking and know what you want. You must manage your networking, or it will manage you. All projects need managing. Business networking is a project, therefore, it needs managing. An activity which has no clear planned outcomes is liable to be pulled in all sorts of unwanted ways. As we know with any project, we will only move towards our aim when we keep focused on that aim.
Have a clear understanding of what you do and why, for whom, and what makes what you do special or different from others in the same business. If you want to get referrals, you must first have a clear understanding of what you do that you can easily articulate to others.
Help others and you will be helped. Care about others and reach out to them. You must give in order to receive. Be helpful to others and you will be helped in return. It is a sign of your inner strength when you take the first step to help someone. Always prioritize helping and giving to others ahead of taking and receiving for yourself. Be creative and constructive in how you approach others and how you might help them. If you are defensive and you make assumptions, this tends to limit your options and growth.
Integrity, trust and reputation are vital for networking. A great reputation takes time to develop and can be destroyed in seconds.Sometimes a situation arises which tempts us to do the wrong thing, causing harm or upset that could have been avoided. Making such a mistake can damage personal integrity.