7 Keys to being a great networker

Why is it that some people seem to know everyone at functions and get what they want so easily in business while others seem to waste their time week after week? I have found that that there are 7 keys to successful networking.

By Howard Shore, Executive and Business Coach

1. Shape Your Attitude – Doug Brown, CEO and rainmaker of Paradigm Associates once asked me a question: “What would it do for you and your business if you became an electromagnet?” In other words, make yourself someone that everyone wants to meet, become friends with, do business with, associate with, etc. The key here is to shape your positive mental attitude before each networking meeting so that you have the state of mind to attract everyone you meet. A key point is this - when you have had a really bad day, do NOT go to a networking function, no matter how important (send someone else if you can), because you may do more harm than good for your business.

2. Help Others – Be a connector of people and resources. Be known as someone to call for anything. Go out of your way to help out strangers. You might think that you do not have enough time to help everyone, but it does not take very long if you get organized, have a good contact management system, and keep track of who can be relied upon. If you genuinely look for ways to help everyone you meet, you will become one of the most popular people in town, and in the long run your business will flourish. When you genuinely help others they are most inclined to do business with you or to help you in kind. It is the law of reciprocity!

3. Show Up and Get Involved Regularly – Do not do things half way! When becoming a part of an organization, go to most of the functions (without pre-judging the outcome before you get there!); join committees; regularly communicate with the leadership; write articles for their newsletter; do pro-bono work; try to speak in front of the group; look for opportunities to let people know what you do; meet different people every time you go to functions; volunteer for projects, etc.. Remember this is net-“work” not net-“sit.” People need to get familiar with you. People do business with or refer business to people they know and are comfortable with over time.

4. Set Specific Goals for Every Function – Have goals for every event and function you attend, and write them down. Goals need to be specific, measurable, attainable, realistically high, and time-bound. Let me give you an example. I went to the Chamber luncheon the other day, and my goals included: say hello to 20 people, tell 10 people what I do, meet 3 new decision-makers, and meet 1 potential center of influence. The 10 people included people that already have heard what I do. Why? Because, even my wife forgets what I do for a living. Repetition is important for retention. Secondly, repetition is important for retention. Lastly, repetition is important for retention.

5. Be Prepared – Have a short speech (no more than 20 seconds) about what you and your firm do, bring plenty of business cards, and something to write with for important notes. Part of being prepared also includes these 5 keys: be interesting, be interested, be brief, use a direct approach, and have a positive mental attitude. If you attend with others from your organization, split up so that your efforts are multiplied. If you find yourself caught in a conversation of no value to you, politely move on (e.g. it was a pleasure to meet you, I see someone that was expecting to meet me here today so I must go now). If you find people sharing information you want to remember, use the back of their business cards to take notes. Personal information such as number of children, hobbies, and interests will enable you to personalize your next contact with them.

6. Ask for Help – Whenever you join a new organization, the first thing you should do is get a meeting with the leadership or management team. Get an understanding of the political dynamics of the organization; the key players; how decisions are made; what are the most active committees; what each committee does; what gaps need to be closed that you can help fill, etc. Let them know what you hope to achieve from the organization, understand the avenues for achievement, and ask for help. When you are at functions, find out who is there and ask for introductions to people you want to meet.  If you meet someone too junior, ask if their boss is there and if they are willing to introduce you. Tell people who you are looking for and ask for referrals inside or outside of the room.

7. Know Why You Are There – You are there to increase your success, not to drink, eat, or socialize with your colleagues.

Networking is a process that can be learned and mastered by all. If you follow the above recommendations, you will find large returns on investment and that networking can be fun and bring outstanding success to your career and business!

 By Howard Shore, Executive and Business Coach
2009 V.P. of Marketing for Greater Miami Society for Human Resources Management