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

Gail Sussman Miller interview – networking expert and coach

Gail Sussman Miller is a marketing obstacle buster for women solopreneurs. She coaches women to move past obstacles and get in action by shifting their mindset and leveraging their strengths rather than improve their weaknesses. She teaches women to operate from inspired choice rather than from obligation in business and in life.

Gail offers a free worksheet to enhance your networking. Get this tool to help you develop your 1-line, 3-line and longer “elevator speech” by focusing you on your WHO and WHAT at

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

Gail Sussman Miller: For me business networking stems from simple human interaction for the sake of business. In a workshop I teach to small companies, associations and entrepreneurial groups, called How to Love Networking, I define networking as simply connecting with like-minded people for the greater good.

It is critical in business to build relationships, build a network or community, and have support for your goals. Especially for the solopreneurs I work with, it is so important to have resources to help avoid isolation, make connections, brainstorm ideas, and get the joy of helping others.

Being generous, genuinely compassionate, and helping others generates energy and creativity to fuel our own work and dreams.

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

Gail Sussman Miller: Whoa, just one? (smile) Let me share the nugget of a powerful reframing process I teach as a way to help those who don’t like networking. Typically there is discomfort that comes from not knowing how to start conversations, worrying that you are not interesting enough or good enough, the feeling that you are imposing or have to be pushy and extroverted to succeed. Sound familiar?

Ok, BNA readers. Try this out. For a moment, focus on something you love to do, like buying a new book to read. You start shopping with a little research based on your desired outcomes from this book. Then you decide the best store to shop in, walk over to the right section, and cock your head to the side and start skimming titles.

When a book catches your interest, you might skim the jacket and table of contents. All the while, you are filtering how this book makes you feel, how it fits your needs, and decide if you want to read more. Ultimately, you make some leap of faith that you are ready to make a purchase. This is a relatively simple, self-directed process that you’ve done many times with little or no fear, pressure or self-judgment.

NOW I want you to see how you can network the way you shop for a book! At times, you have many reasons for networking; getting new clients, speaking opportunities, a new job. Just as with the book, decide what need you want to focus on.

If you are looking for places to speak, for example, you’ll need to know who your target market is and what you do for them to fuel your topic. With that goal in mind, you choose the best networking environment in which to go “shopping” for speaking opportunities and people who can help you find them.

Now, let’s use our book shopping metaphor. Imagine walking into a room of people and skimming their titles, literally labeled on their name tags. You say “Hello” and skim their table of contents by finding out what you have in common.

As you talk, you learn the theme of their story. See how easy this can be! And it works. You get a feel for whether this is a person who fits your interests and your goals or if you can be of service to them.

As you talk to them and build rapport, you may ask if they belong to an organization that is looking for speakers. You may discover they can support another need in your life. You ask for their business card to “bookmark” to save your place to come back to this book and learn more later.

It can be that easy and free from worry and fear. Networking is all about browsing connections that feel right and building relationships for short- and long-term mutual benefit. I wrote an article on this reframing process for TCW that will take this idea deeper.

Josh: Can you share a personal “networking” success story with us?

Gail Sussman Miller: That’s a great question and even keeps us in our book shopping metaphor! All of life is a story. Well, networking is the primary marketing method that brings me speaking and training opportunities, introductions to prospects, and media placements. In my success story, one contact over the last 3-4 years has led to all of the above!

I was active on a Chicago women’s networking list serve and a woman emailed me offline based on my tagline about teaching women solopreneurs how to love and overcome marketing obstacles. She approached me to make me aware that her business might be a resource for my clients if they wanted to start a business by buying a franchise. I added her email to my distribution list.

The very next time I announced a “How to Love Networking” workshop, she called to say her company was looking to do a training session on networking skills at just that time. This led to my delivering a customized session for her business in 2004.

Over the next 3 years or so, this one relationship continued to bear fruit. This led to my being interviewed on a radio show co-hosted by my contact. Recently, after she appeared in a local newspaper article, I asked for an introduction to the reporter and now only a month later, he is doing a feature article on my “How to Love Speaking” spinoff workshop.

This relationship is nurtured by an occasional lunch or phone call or when a need arises for either of us. We do not have any forced follow-up schedule or obligations or “shoulds.”

That is networking at its best. I operate using my natural style and personality, it’s based on making an authentic connection, is motivated by genuine compassion, and breathing room to allow outcomes that flow organically.

*Brought to you

**Josh Hinds, your host here at BusinessNetworkingAdvice speaks on topics including Business Networking — get details on having him speak to your group.