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Networking For Business Success - (SA Woman)

Unfortunately, many people think that networking is shaking hands and passing out and collecting business cards at group functions. They think that a successful networking experience is one in which they meet the most people and exchange the most cards. They figure “The more people who know about me the better”! While that statement is somewhat true, it misses the point. Networking is not about telling people about you; successful networkers know it’s really about you knowing about other people! If you concentrate on their needs, on how you can help them, you will make yourself more attractive to them and, consequently, increase the likelihood that they will want to help you. It’s far better to engage in a good conversation with a few people at an event than it is to dash around trying to see how many people you can “meet and greet”. You want to find out about their businesses and their current needs. You want to see if you can find a way to help them get something they want—clients, contacts, services. So let’s say you meet a new person at an event. What do you say to her? How do you get a good conversation going? One of the very best questions you can ask someone after she’s told you a bit about what she does is this: “So when I meet someone, how will I know if he or she is a good prospect for you?” The other person will be pleasantly surprised by this question and, even more important, eager to answer it. And she is likely to return the favor, giving you an opportunity to let her know how she can be helpful to you. If you find yourself grasping for things to say, have a few “canned” questions that you’ve thought of that will get the person talking about her business or career. Consider these:

So what’s been your biggest challenge this year?

What do you most love about the work you do?
How did you get interested in your line of work?
How does someone in your field become a ______?
What are some of the new developments going on in your field?
How did you get started in the ______business?
How is your company different from your competition?
What have you found to be the best way to promote your business?

By showing genuine interest in the other person (rather than concentrating on yourself), you’ll be much more likely to make a positive impression. Go ahead and exchange a business card at this point, but the reason you’ll give the person yours is so you can get hers. Jot a few words on the back of her card to jog your memory later about your conversation. When you return from the event, you’ll probably have four to six business cards of people you actually know something about. Now as you look at each card, think about your own network--who do you know who might be able to help this person? Who provides a service that she might need? Who might want to be a customer? If she is job- hunting, what contacts do you have in her industry? Write each person a brief note or give her a call. If you don’t know anyone who can help right at the moment, let her know that you will be thinking about possible ways you can be of service in a specific way. Not “I’ll try to think of someone who would be a good contact for you” but “I’ll be on the look-out for a manufacturing company who is looking for a good engineer like yourself”.  This way you personalize your note and let the other person know that you do, in fact, remember her and are not just sending out generic notes to everyone you met.

The better impression you make on someone, the more likely she is to remember you as her network comes into mind.  What else--besides focusing on her needs--will assure a memorable impression? Your handshake, for one.  It needs to be firm, not wishy-washy or flimsy.  A “limp dishrag” handshake smacks of insecurity and ineffectualness.  It needs to be strong without crushing other people’s hands and/or digging their rings into their fingers. You also need to broadcast self-assurance.  You don’t want to look depressed or down in the dumps, nor do you want to come across as a hyped-up cheerleader.  If you tend to be somewhat shy, that’s okay.  Just remember to think of some questions in advance so that you can engage people in meaningful conversation rather than stand awkwardly in silence. If you are wearing a nametag, place it on your right shoulder, not your left.  Why?  Because when you shake hands, your nametag will be easier for the other person to read; with the tag on your left shoulder, you’ll be covering it up as you reach across with your right hand. So long as you have the mindset that networking is all about figuring out how you can be of help to the other person, you’ll find new contacts who will be impressed with you and who will want to be help you in return.

Judi Craig, Ph.D., MCC is an Executive & Career Coach in San Antonio , TX and President of Coach Squared, Inc.  Visit www.coachsquared.com or email judi@coachsquared.com.

SIDEBAR:  Who’s In Your Network?

It has been said that the average person knows at least 250 people.  If you don’t believe that, begin making a list of everyone you know including…

people you’ve worked with in the past;
former clients or customers;
friends and acquaintances;
people at your place of worship;
people on your Christmas list;
professionals who provide services (lawyers, accountants, physicians, bankers, stockbrokers, insurance agents, etc.);
shop owners and clerks;
people in clubs or associations you belong to;
people who are taking classes with you;
workout buddies at the gym.

Keep the list handy and you’ll find yourself thinking of additional people during the next few days—or maybe at two in the morning.  As one new person pops into mind, chances are you’ll automatically think of two or three more. After a few days, count your list; you’ll probably have at least 250 people.

Why is this important?  Because when you network with one person, you’re really potentially networking with that person’s network of 250! 

Judi Craig, Ph.D., MCC   13620 NW Military Hwy., Ste. 202-2   San Antonio, TX  78231.   210-824-3391

Email: jcraig@coachsquared.com