Expert Advice On Business Networking And Tips On Developing Your Networking Skills

Interview with Dean Lindsay of The Progress Agents

Dean Lindsay is the founder of ProgressAgents.com – a workshop company and consulting firm that is dedicated to empowering progress in sales, service, and workplace performance. He is the author of the book, Cracking the Networking CODE: 4 Steps to Priceless Business Relationships.

Josh: How do you define Business Networking and why do you feel it is important?

Dean Lindsay: First, great site and blog Josh. Wish I would have thought of it. Congrats and thanks for including me.

OK, here we go… business networking according to me. The goal of business networking is not meeting people. The goal of business networking is to build priceless business relationships. Therefore, it helps to think of business networking as a creative and often slow process: You are creating ways to serve and to help others progress.

Meeting people is a fundamental step to building priceless business relationships, but it is far from the only step. There is a big difference between meeting someone and building a priceless business relationship with them. There is a long way from ‘Met to Net’, and because people misjudge this distance, the term “business networking” has gotten a bum rap.

I consistently ask professionals who come to my Cracking the Networking CODE Boot Camps, to share with me what they think of when they hear the words “business networking.” Far too often, they say the words conjure up images of manipulative, self-serving, insincere and predatory individuals who are on the prowl for someone they can pounce on, try to sell something to, or solicit an unearned favor from.

I wish I could say this style of business networking wasn’t out there, but it is, and it is a waste of time for ineffective networkers and the unfortunate people they corner.

True business networking is not about arm-twisting. True business networking is not about trying to get someone to do something that does not make sense for them to do. True business networking is not about scary old backslapping sales shenanigans. True business networking means passionately dancing the back scratch boogie. We progress as we help others progress.

So, how do you build priceless relationships through business networking? This is an important question to consider because, to a large degree, who you know and associate with determines who you become in life.

The most successful, well-rounded and happy people are most often the ones who are best connected to other successful, well-rounded and happy people. When these people need support or information, they know who to call.

How well-connected you are determines your access to those with the most money, the best contacts, the real power and influence (not to mention the best seats at sporting events). Being connected to the right people opens up opportunities for you and your company.

To build priceless business relationships, you need to help others be successful. You need to help them progress. The people we meet must view being around us as progress, not change. It is natural to resist change, but we embrace progress. Building a relationship with us must be viewed as progress if we hope others will choose to alter their lives to include us.

To build priceless business relationships and become a truly effective business networker, you constantly need to search out ways to help others progress. You must position yourself in their minds as a catalyst in their progress, as an agent in their progress, as a Progress Agent.

Josh: Dean, can you share one idea that someone could put into practice that would help them to improve their business networking skills?

Dean Lindsay: It may be slightly more than one idea Josh, but I will offer up the CODE. The four letters that make up the word CODE stand for the four steps consistently taken by the most effective business networkers to build truly priceless business relationships and be progress-effective business networkers:

C: Create Personal Curb Appeal
Effective business networkers feel successful and display a genuine desire to help others progress. They are Progress Agents. They look and act the part of someone you would want to have in your corner. They don’t go to networking events looking for success; they take success with them to the events.

O: Open Face-To-Face Relationships…
Effective business networkers connect with new people everywhere they go. They also research the various business networking event options and commit to a business networking strategy. They get out and about and reach out. They proactively open relationships. Be aware that it’s possible to go to a business networking event and not have any “networking moments.” Business networking is more than showering and showing up (though I recommend them both). It’s about connecting with people and finding ways to help them progress.

D: Deliver Solid First Impressions…
Effective business networkers know their first impression sets the foundation for all future impressions, and they make sure it’s progress-based. Effective networkers strive to stand out in a positive way in the minds of people with whom they want future contact. Effective business networkers focus on being interested, rather than interesting. The key is to “Turn people on to you by tuning in to them.”

E: Earn Trust…
My definition of trust is the promise of progress. Effective business networkers follow up and keep in touch. They get to know and stay involved with the people they meet and earn their trust through a series of progress based impressions. They continually find ways to help — to “be progress” for those in their network. This is where most ineffective networkers drop the ball. Even if your Blackberry or ACT database system is bursting with names, numbers and email addresses, it will not do you a bit of good unless you BUILD the relationships.

Sure, being in business is challenging. Sure, it’s nerve-racking to look for a new job. Sure, sales can be tough to come by. Sure, marketing is a moving bull’s-eye. Sure, people are often pressed for time. But here is something else I know for sure: People do business with, as well as help, share information with, brainstorm with and give referrals to people they trust and value. They trust and value people who genuinely care about them and provide progress for their lives. They trust and value people who offer the promise of progress.

Get out there and find a back to scratch. Crack the networking CODE. Be Progress.

-You can learn more about Dean Lindsay at www.ProgressAgents.com.

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