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

Interview with Tony D. Clark of

Tony D. Clark is an entrepreneur, writer, artist, and designer who spends a lot of time talking others into profiting from what they know, being creative, and doing what they love. He is readying the launch of his new venture, Teaching Sells, in the fall of 2008. He blogs at Success from the Nest — providing advice for the aspiring home-based entrepreneur, all served up with humor and cartoons.

Josh: Tony, how do you define Business Networking and why do you feel it is important?

Tony D. Clark: Because I’ve always been self-employed, I never really differentiated business networking from just meeting people. It’s simply the act of getting to know people, taking an interest in what they do, and looking for ways to help them out. And listening — lots and lots of shutting up and listening.

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

Tony D. Clark: Learn to listen. It’s amazing how many people don’t know how to use this skill. There’s a difference between feigning interest and waiting for your turn to talk, and really listening to what someone has to say. Take an active listening approach — using questions and your own anecdotes to enhance what the other person is saying.

I know a lot of very successful networkers that rarely say anything, and they are considered great conversationalists! Mainly because they do more listening then talking.

Josh: During the speaking and training I do, I often say that an important key to “effective networking” is creating value in the eyes of those you meet and connect with. Can you share some of the ways you go about creating value for those you’re interested in getting to know better and connecting with on a deeper level?

Tony D. Clark: I like helping aspiring entrepreneurs not for altruistic reasons, but because I genuinely love independent thinkers and those who do things their own way. Life and work are fun — when done on your own terms. So when I meet someone, my mind begins to spin on all the ways I can help them succeed, because that’s fun.

Creative people and knowledge experts have a desire to share their gifts. Finding new ways to do that is part of the game. It’s like when you see a great movie, you want to tell everyone about it. I’m that way with the life of entrepreneurship and self-employment. And I’m always on the lookout for ways to bring others into the “club.”

Josh: What events, places, or resources (online or offline) have you found to be especially good for networking? And based on your experience what makes them stand out?

Tony D. Clark: Honestly, I’ve had more success with online networking over the past 5 years or so, than offline. I have business partners I’ve met online, and never even met face to face. I do most of my business online, so that makes sense.

It’s going to sound contrived, but some of the best business contacts I’ve ever met have been through blogging and social applications. The same rules apply — you’re always looking for win-win, and not just what’s in it for you. I’d gotten jaded with offline networking events, because they mostly were the same people looking for the same handouts. I choose my offline events very carefully now, and make sure they are something more than stale munchies, warm beer, and various types of cold-callers looking to build their list.

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