Lillian Bjorseth – Speaker and Author
Lillian Bjorseth is synonymous with networking in the Chicago area. The Chicago Tribune calls her a “networking expert,” and the Association Forum of Chicagoland dubs her the “business networking authority.” She’s co-founder of the Greater Chicago Networking Extravaganza. Lillian is known for engaging you, enthralling you and inspiring you as she speaks, trains and coaches nationwide. She’s the author of Breakthrough Networking: Building Relationships That Last, (now in the third edition). You can visit her blog and website to learn more about the work she does.
Josh Hinds: How do you define Business Networking, and why do you think it is important?
Lillian Bjorseth: Networking is an active, dynamic process that links people into mutually beneficial relationships to build a new kind of wealth: social capital.
Active – You cannot sit back and wait to be contacted or approached. You have to make it happen! The knight or princess on the white horse will not ride up to your door with referrals or job offers. You have to take the initiative to participate and meet others.
Dynamic – People, events and information are constantly changing. No two interchanges are the same. You have to keep up with your industry, your business, your company, your community, your friends, and, most of all, you have to hone your techniques continually so you can apply them universally.
A process – Networking is a series of hierarchical actions and interactions that leads to an end: a result, a solution, a relationship, an answer, a sale, a job.
Links – The process connects, bonds and couples people with one another. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and your network is only as strong as your weakest relationship.
Mutually beneficial relationships – Networking is as much about giving as it is about getting. You and people you connect with and connect to others need to mutually profit from the interactions to make it work. Just as you can’t take money from your savings account until you deposit it, you can’t take from the universe until you have helped others. And you don’t need to keep track because the natural law of reciprocity makes sure you will get when you give.
Social capital – This kind of wealth – your network of knob turners – is what helps you amass financial capital. Who you know is more important up front than what you know. Advanced degrees and experience won’t open doors for you. It’s people who do that.
Josh Hinds: Can you share a few ideas that someone could put into practice that would help to improve their business networking skills?
Lillian Bjorseth: Create a written relationship-building plan. This process will save you from repeating one of the big errors so many people make: they don’t take time to clearly define their target market or set goals. They fish for trout in a catfish pond and in so doing waste a lot of precious time and money and never find the “fish” they are seeking. A plan helps you equally well whether you are looking for your first job, wanting to change jobs, looking for a promotion or lateral move, are in transition or are self-employed. It’s easy to update the plan annually once you have created it.
Become a student of Impression Management. While there are 86,400 seconds in a day, it takes only 10 or fewer to create a first impression. Business networkers need to decide what impression they want to make at events and meetings and then know how to make that impression.
The first impression is based on image, a combination of appearance and behavior. It would behoove professionals to know what messages the color, style and fit of their clothes sends as well as their walk, posture, handshakes, eye contact, facial expressions and use of time and space.
Craft an Effective Verbal Business Card (VBC) – The VBC is a phrase I coined to describe your all-important introductory words. It’s the front end of your elevator pitch, and like the bait on a fishing hook, it entices others to “bite,” i.e., to want to talk with you. It takes a lot of concentration and effort to create the right compelling combination. In your generic version (with people who may not know you), include:
Your name – everyone has senior moments no matter their age
What you do – not who you are or how you do it
Active verbs – the most powerful words in the English language
Benefits for others – because people are more interested in what you can do for them than they are in you
A finely crafted VBC can make you the person someone wants to talk with and the most memorable person afterwards because you created interest and purpose and “lured” them into a meaningful encounter.
Know your networking strengths and limitations. It’s vital that you understand your natural communication style as well as why other people naturally behave the way they do … and then how to adapt and flex in different networking situations. People want to be dealt with in their style … not yours … so hone your people reading skills and react in the moment. A tool like the DiSC® Classic is helpful to learn more about Dauntless, Indefatigable, Supportive and Careful networkers.
Josh Hinds: Why do you think some people discredit the power of having a well-established business network in place?
Lillian Bjorseth: Josh, I have no idea why people would not want to build relationships since business is conducted preferably with people you know and trust. Helps if you like them, too, however the first two qualities are most important. I got jobs with Nicor Gas and A&T with one phone call because of people I knew there. Why would anyone not want to get jobs or sales that easily?
Josh Hinds: With follow up being so important, can you share some creative ways for doing that so you are remembered in a positive way?
Lillian Bjorseth: I already mentioned the importance of having an effective, creative Verbal Business Card as a conversation starter to have an opportunity to share your story so you will be memorable afterwards. Being memorable though is not enough; in other words, don’t depend solely on the other person’s follow up.
My favorite method to show importance and creativity is a handwritten note. It takes effort to do this well. My thoughts were confirmed when over a recent lunch a general manager told me he doesn’t grant second interviews to candidates who do not send a written note after the first one.
Another creative, thoughtful way to follow up is to send articles, clippings, etc., that are especially pertinent to the other person. It shows that you listened (number one human relations skill!) and know specifically what is important to him/her.
An invitation to breakfast or lunch (and whoever invites pays) goes a step beyond the common “so nice to meet you” email/text message. An invitation to attend a networking event with you goes even further, particularly if you pay associated costs.
In any case, make sure you follow up. Else it is not worth spending your time trying to build relationships.
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