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

Networking Made Easy By Josh Hinds

Have you ever noticed that the term “networking” tends to conjure up all sorts of thoughts in ones mind? For some it’s an uncomfortable term that makes them down right squeamish. This is pretty sad for several reasons. Not the least of which is that we all network in some respect — it’s just that some of us take the time to learn to do it more effectively than others. It’s sort of like the old saying, everyone sells, whether they realize it or not. Well the same holds true for networking.

You see, at its very core networking is about making connections and building relationships — both personal and professional plain and simple. The difference between someone who is skilled at networking and someone who is not is that one has taken the time to understand that the connection is not the means to an end — and sadly the other hasn’t. That is, great networkers don’t make a connection with the thought in mind as to how they can benefit as a result. No, instead they look at it from a point of genuine interest in developing some sort of relationship with that particular person.

Surely, over time both parties may benefit as a result of the connection, however, that’s not the initial reason for investing the time necessary to build a solid relationship with that person.

I’d like to share a few ideas that you can put into practice that will drastically improve the way you come across to someone you’ve just met — which in turn will make you a much more effective networker.

First, accept that just about any time is a good time to make a new connection — so long as you’re not approaching it from a point of “what can I get from this person right now, and right here”. That being said, any time you’re in a close proximity to another person simply introduce yourself. For some this might seem to be out of sorts, but you’d be surprised at how many people are willing to strike up a conversation, especially when there’s no pressure to do so.

Once you’ve gotten past the initial introduction, make a point to focus on the other person. You don’t want to appear to pushy, but you can certainly ask the person you’ve just met a bit about themselves. The key is just making it fun.

Remember, this is not the time for hidden agendas. Simply let the other person answer the questions you ask of them and tell you about themselves. If they prefer to keep the conversation light, by all means keep it light.

If you’re on the topic of what they do as a profession let them talk about what they do, and by all means resist the natural urge we all seem to have to start spouting off at the mouth about what you do.

People love to hear themselves talk, and if you’ll allow them to do that, you’ll be amazed by what a positive light it will put you in. It works, because so few people actually allow others the time to talk about themselves. Not easy to do, but when you get this, you’ll be way ahead of the game!

Here’s another important step, resist the urge to give the other person your business card. What you say? That’s right, instead of focusing on giving your business card (which might just be discarded anyway — seeing as how you have no real connection developed yet) ask for their card. By the way, I would be amiss if I didn’t mention that my friend, speaker and author Bob Burg was the first person who mentioned this idea to me.

I’ve used it, or some form of it for years now, and it works like clockwork. That being said, I want to mention again, it’s not meant as a trick or to be deceptive. It’s simply a way of showing the other person at the initial point of contact that you’re not like all the other folks who are simply focused on themselves first. And let me assure you, this is an enviable place to be in the mind of another person.

Ok, so now you have their business card, the next step you ask? Simply continue the conversation like you normally would. Enjoy the encounter. Heck, for all you know this person might end up being a valued friend. At this point there’s no way of knowing what will evolve, so you may as well make a point to treat each person you meet as though they will be, right?

Now listen closely because this is where things are particularly important. I’m going to give you an example of what I do at this point of meeting someone and you can either copy my approach, or use some variant of it. Before I do I want to remind you of a saying I often use when I’m speaking to groups on the topic of effective networking or during the other personal development topics I speak on…

Personal development is a hands on project, what that means is, take the ideas you learn, apply them to your own life situation and by all means, discard the ones that don’t resonate with you. No one has a lock on the “right way” to do something 🙂

Now that I got my little disclaimer out of the way here’s what I do…

Remember, that I’ve got the other persons business card. I make a point at the end of the day to look back through the cards (or notes) of people I’ve met and I take the time to write them a personal note. By the way, I have a postcard which includes my web addresses on them, with my name and the words: Author – Writer – Speaker.

The postcards aren’t meant as a promotional piece, but rather as a way to stick out more in the mind of the person I’m writing to. You see, in my case, most folks will remember during our conversation what I do (even though I didn’t focus on me) and if I didn’t even mention it, well the card gently let’s them know. That being said, the front side of the card isn’t really what’s important, what’s important is what I write on the other side of the postcard — the blank side 🙂

On it I include a short note mentioning that it was good to meet them. I’ll include a mention of where we met, to avoid leaving them wondering who in the heck this person is who has just contacted them.

Once again, on this initial follow up note I’m not asking them for anything at all. I’m simply letting them know that I enjoyed meeting them, where we met and letting them know that if I’m able to help them in any way in the future they are certainly welcome to contact me. This simple approach over time will position you in a very, very favorable place in the mind of those you meet. Plus, it opens up the door to building more solid long-term relationships with those you come into contact with. How so you ask? Because you can always repeat this simple idea ongoing from time to time.

Often I will drop notes just letting the other person know I was thinking about them, or if I ran across something that I think might be of interest to them. The possibilities are endless when it comes to using this idea to stay in contact.

In closing I’d like to urge you to use the lost art of letter writing to ignite the connections with those you come into contact with. You’ll benefit greatly both professionally and personally for doing so.

Happy Networking, Josh Hinds
Speaker and Trainer

Btw. You can learn more about having me speak to your group at www.GetMotivation.com/speaker/

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  • Josh Hinds

    Rich, thanks for the kudos! Glad you liked the article.

    Great question you asked — it’s something I’ve given thought to and have commented on in the past.

    In my humble opinion, I would say it’s not as much that the type of services you mentioned have changed the way folks network (aside from the obvious fact that they can make keeping in touch easier) per se as the way in which they’ve helped to bring everyone “closer together” (i.e. things like physical location, and other common barriers to making an initial contact in the past aren’t near the issue they once were).

    Certainly the features these sites offer can be very helpful in keeping up with what’s happening in the lives of those who are members of our network. Yet, it’s still about creating quality relationships. If there’s one thing I see (fortunately not that often) that some folks do wrong is to view things from a point of quantity vs. quality. Meaning, they think it’s about having this massive number of people who are connected to them, as opposed to focusing on building real relationships with those that they connect with.

    Obviously, just because you’ve met someone, doesn’t mean you’ve built rapport, or loyalty with that particular person. What you have is a new acquaintance. It’s at this point where one needs to focus on building up value in the other persons eyes if they want to develop a lasting connection with that person, and in turn gain from the benefit of having another in their “network”.

    In summary, I’d say that the services you mentioned can be terrific tools for meeting new connections, and of course in building stronger connections with those same folks. However it’s the work that one puts into building the relationship that will make the difference. I’d also say that meeting folks in person, at events, via blogs (we’re doing that right now :-)), forums, etc. are also excellent sources for networking/connecting with others.

    No matter what resource a person uses, the ideas for building and creating value for oneself in the eyes of another is the key to building a strong and lasting network.

    Happy networking, Josh Hinds 🙂

  • Roger Loh

    That’s really a FANTASTIC post, Josh!

    I can’t help to read and re-read that post many times…I’m not kidding.

    If only everyone of us network the right way rather than trying to sell each other stuff the moment we meet whether physically or online, spamming would be a thing of the past 🙂

    Warmly,
    Roger

  • sri

    You´re right that people define “networking” differently.

    I find that many people confuse “networking” with “prospecting”.

    Often, when people say they´re “networking”, they´re actually “prospecting” — in other words, looking specifically for prospective customers and treating everyone they meet as a prospect.

    So it´s not surprising that some people are uncomfortable or squeamish about “networking”. They´ve probably either been on the receiving end of “prospecting”; or they think that that´s what “networking” really is and that´s what they must do. Or worse: both!

    Srirupa Dasgupta
    http://www.EffortlessNetworking.com

  • Josh Hinds

    Roger, thanks for the kind words about the post. All the best, Josh 🙂