When it comes to building a business, it’s all about relationship-building. Where do you make these connections and how can you be sure they’re with the right people? It’s all about networking.
1. Be targeted
What is it that you want to achieve from the networking session? Set yourself a goal eg. that you want to connect with at least three new people that have key links into the Human Resources (HR) department.
This will help you make sure that your conversations are a lot more targeted instead of trying to see and meet everyone. If you meet too many people, you may find that at the end of the session you have a bunch of superficial connections and a handful of business cards, where you can’t remember which card belongs to whom.
Related: 5 Rookie networking fails and how to avoid them
2. Practice your handshake
A handshake is very important. Many a business deal has not worked out because of a limp handshake. When you shake hands make sure that part of your hand, between your index finger and thumb connects with that same part of the hand of the other person; so go in for that hand shake.
Don’t crush the other person’s hand, but make sure that there is a sturdy connection. Avoid dead fish handshakes. At the same time, make eye contact with the person you are greeting. Practice doing this at home first, before you make a hash of it at the session.
This is a rookie mistake; we don’t listen. When we start networking, we’re so eager to get our story out there, and tell people how amazing we / the service / products are, only to be quite disappointed after our monologue that the person has absolutely no interest in what we do.
A powerful trick is to be the one asking questions and to get the other person to do the talking. It also helps to tell them what you are looking for; you never know who they might know and can refer you to.
With a couple of key questions you can quickly ascertain whether the person should be on your target list and if not, you need to gracefully wrap up the conversation and move on.
4. Be a business card collector
This is so that you are in control over making future contact with the person. If you give your business card out to all and sundry, then you have no way of making sure whether they will ever follow-up with you. I’m not suggesting that you don’t share your business card; I just highly recommend that you get the other person’s card too.
5. Business card etiquette
When someone hands you their business card, look at it and comment on it – be it the design or location of the business; say something about the card.
The person / business has gone to great lengths and expense to have the business cards made, show it some interest and respect.
A big no-no is to just throw it into your handbag, or put it into your back pocket; if you have a shirt pocket; put it in there – to show that you are putting it close to your heart.
Also don’t use their business card to write down your details and give it back to them; this is just plain rude. If you don’t have a card to share, take their card and send through your contact details by email the next time you are in front of your computer.
Related: How to make the most of your network
6. Make a note
This has helped me a lot in the past, especially the next day after a week of many different interactions. It helps to jot down a couple of things about the person on the business card – where we met / interesting things discussed / things to send or follow-up on.
It does not help to make a connection and then never follow up. Try and follow up within (at least) the same week; the important thing is to follow up with a short note or to send the information discussed during the meeting.
8. Invest in a good Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool
My favourite is OnePage, there are however many solutions available. The details of the person can be entered on the program or you can download the App; you can then assign specific actions to each contact.
Each morning ‘one page’ of that day’s activities is mailed through to you so that you know whom you need to follow up with. You can then add additional notes of what was said / what was agreed and what the next steps are.