What does networking mean? For most people today, it’s just another name for services like Facebook or LinkedIn. Networking across these platforms is easy; add someone to your group, send them a message, ‘like’ their posts and the job is done!
Or not, as the case may be. These channels are crowded with other voices, all trying to achieve the same, leaving your message to drown amongst a sea of others. In this scenario, the art of real-world networking is still perhaps your best business development weapon.
It’s no secret that attending networking events, or even informal social gatherings, can be a daunting affair for most people. Meeting new faces, pitching your services and just knowing what to say and when, often prove to be real challenges.
Thankfully there are a few basic rules that make the whole experience much easier for you and those you’re trying to court.
Numerous studies have demonstrated that first impressions count, they are lasting and they are also quickly formed; often subconsciously and within seconds of meeting someone for the first time. A presentable appearance will help you overcome this first hurdle while ensuring you have confidence in yourself.
Once the initial introductions and handshakes are out of the way, it’s time to prove your intent of building a long-term relationship. Talk about long-term ambitions, not short-term goals. Networking is not the time for hard-selling; is a time for discovery and learning. Be curious and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Above all, be yourself! Allow your personality through and don’t be afraid to let your guard down slightly. It’s an old (but true) adage that ‘People buy from people’; your personality is unique and almost impossible to convey accurately over the internet so use it to your advantage!
Finally, don’t expect to develop business winning relationships overnight. Keep in touch, remain interested and don’t always talk ‘shop’. When the time comes, you’ll be front of mind and ‘on the list’.
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- Jason Aldein 26.08.11
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