Networking is an essential skill for most business people, but especially for entrepreneurs. By becoming an established and regular networker you can propel your business onto the radar of other companies and industry figures. This will allow you to build mutually beneficial relationships not only with other companies in your field, but also with suppliers or potential clients which in turn will help to expand your market.
Yes, you got me! Networking is building mutually beneficial relationships; nothing less, nothing more.
A successful network connection requires a mutual understanding from the start that it is about "what I can do for you" as much as it is about "what you can do for me". Those connections, and the support required to maintain them, are the necessary ingredients for developing a solid network.
Here are six habits that successful networkers live by:
1. Define your networking goals.
Collecting a massive stack of business cards is not an end in itself — it's a waste of time (yours and the people you are collecting cards from). There needs to be a purpose behind every networking opportunity. Are you looking for clients, staff/skills, investors or work?
2. Seek first to understand before being understood.
Listen generously. Always wait a second after a person finishes speaking before you speak.
3. Be fully present.
Be fully engaged and fully aware of the people you interact with. Many people only seem to be "half there", so being fully engaged helps you to stand out.
4. Be yourself.
When you’re meeting people, be authentic. That means demonstrating care and concern by keeping it real.
5. Make yourself useful.
Attempt to help others before you ask for help yourself. You may have an idea that could benefit someone. Sometimes helping others can be as simple as recommending a book to them. If you are perceived as a helpful person, more and more people will want to do business with you.
6. Don’t waste contact information.
Why take someone’s card if you are not going to follow up? A simple e-mail saying "I really enjoyed our conversation…" will do. But why not take it a step further; state your purpose and ask for a brief follow-up meeting?
Finally, a relationship requires time to build and, more importantly, it requires integrity, credibility and trust. The good news is that we can acquire this vital business competency by getting the right knowledge, the right attitude and plenty of practice.
Karl Smith is the founder of Business Networking South Africa.
Article published courtesy of Sanlam Cobalt.