Networking is a great way to develop business contacts. Something that is good for business development, finding competent suppliers and support, as well as helping to find a new job.

So the ability to properly network is definitely a skill worth strengthening.

What are the keys to good networking? 

 A FINS article from The Wall Street Journal provides eight rules for networking. The advice given is well worth a read.

I do not have much to add, but I will make a few minor observations.

Always Be Prepared

If you seriously want to improve your networking, always be ready for an unexpected encounter.

Sure you will meet people at professional conferences, Chamber of Commerce functions, and other organized events. You fully expect to be networking at these times.

But you will also meet people just when you are out and about. At sporting events, on the golf course, while at dinner with friends. It is amazing how often you will meet a friend of a friend while in a social setting. And these people can be excellent contacts for future dealings.

While you do not need to be “on” at these times, just be aware that you do have the opportunity to make contacts in social settings. Then be prepared to use some of the tools described in the article.

Time is Money

One of the most valuable commodities a person has is time.

Do not waste the time of others.

I do not mind speaking to most people and discussing business or employment opportunities. Helping someone costs me little and can set them off on the right path. But when someone takes up too much of my attention then that begins to add up. If I spend 30 to 60 minutes answering your questions in my office, that is 30 to 60 less minutes that I can conduct my own business. Which means either a loss of revenue for me or the need to work an extra hour that night.

So when talking to someone new, pretend that they are off to a birthday party or nice dinner and that you are keeping them from that. Hopefully, that thought will keep you focused and not monopolize the person’s time. Or, if in the office, invite them out for lunch one day where you can talk at a more leisurely pace.

Always let the person know indirectly that you realize his or her time is valuable and that you will not take advantage of it. It will go far in developing a business relationship.

Always Be Prepared

In a different sense from above.

If you want to network with me, know what you are talking about. Do your homework before we meet.

If you want to learn more about becoming a professional accountant, financial analyst, or financial planner, I am happy to discuss the topics. But show me that you have done some research and can contribute to the conversation. If you cannot take the time to do some work for yourself, why should I waste my own time on you.

The Elevator Pitch

The article states that you should not confuse people.

Know what you want to say about yourself. Keep it brief, positive in tone, and hopefully memorable. Better to have people wanting to learn more about you than be looking for the exit.

Keeping it brief and focused is often called the elevator pitch. It is well worth creating one and knowing it cold.

Close the Deal

In this case, the deal is creating a positive impression that will be remembered by the person you have met.

Business Cards

Invest a little money in business cards. And I mean only a little.

Keep them very simple with your name and contact details. Make sure you use proper bond paper for the cards so that they have some substance. Otherwise they will rip apart and be lost quickly.

The person you give one to will simply throw it in a drawer unless you make a spectacular impression. But that is not a problem. If you develop the contact over time, they can easily retrieve the data from the drawer.

Pen and Paper (or Electronic Equivalent)

If you can get your contact’s business card, great. But often at social settings, people will not have cards with them (of course you will always be prepared and have your cards on hand). So it is nice to have your own pen and paper to jot down any contact details.

Also, after leaving the contact, take a moment to note any pertinent additional information that came out in your discussion. The business card will contain name, position, address, telephone, email, etc. It will not tell you the name of her husband, the fact she has been at the company for 6 years, or that she prefers playing tennis to golf. But this knowledge is extremely important for you to remember for subsequent conversations.

Follow Up

I am not sure 24 hours is the right number, but send them an email in the next couple of days. Long enough that you are not seemingly stalking them (“hey, I saw you just arrived at your desk and thought I would email.”) but short enough that you will not completely escaped their consciousness (Jonathan Ferraro? Was he one of the three tenors and why is he emailing me?).

Keep the email brief and professional. No one has the time or desire to read a 3 page email from someone they met for 10 minutes at a function.

Maybe I am getting old, but I would not text a new contact. It seems a little unprofessional for an initial contact. Especially if you are prone to using such measures as “C U 2nite. GR8!”, followed by a ☺.

Also, conveying professional thoughts in very few characters is tricky.

If you met at a specific event or were referred/ introduced by a mutual acquaintance, mention that in the subject line or opening sentence. An effective way to trigger the recipient’s memory.

Feel free to ask for a follow up meeting. Ask directly for the meeting, but allow them to choose the timing. Explain that you realize they are busy with work and personal life, so you will work to their schedule. I would suggest that you offer to keep the initial meeting short in duration. Perhaps over lunch or 30 minutes in their office (never make them come to you as it is you that wants the meeting).

Best of luck.

1 Response » to “Improving Your Networking Skills”

  1. Carrol Lawis says:

    Excellent writing! Thank you for this wonderful business source of information.

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