Business networking. The two words that can spark fear in the hearts of the most confident of people. OK, so that’s maybe a bit dramatic, but networking isn’t all plain sailing, especially if you lack the inter-personal skills needed to converse and engage with new business contacts successfully. So how do you become a networking ninja? Well, the secret weapon is quite simply to be yourself. If you be yourself, conversations are more likely to flow naturally and genuine relationships will become easier to form.
Take a read through our tips below to help you brush up on your networking skills and develop relationships that are honest, sincere and valuable to both parties.
The best way to build new relationships is to be yourself. Approach new business contacts as if they are friends and try to identify something you have in common to give you something to talk, laugh and joke about. These genuine first encounters often leave a lasting impression that can be followed up at a later date.
Try to stay engaged throughout the conversation and make sure the conversation is balanced. You will know your own business and industry inside out so try not to overthink or worry about what you need to say. Instead, relax and listen carefully to the other person so the conversation can flow naturally.
Questions and Listening
When listening to new business contacts, think about questions you can ask and be sure to listen carefully to their answers so that you can frame your next question from the response. If you can relate to something a person has said, try to bring it into the conversation. It may be just the key you need to get the conversation flowing.
If you realise early on that the person you are talking to won’t be a good match, think about exiting from the conversation as quickly but as politely as you can. Don’t be too hasty though, sometimes a few rich conversations can lead to excellent new connections. And remember, don’t confuse another person’s silence with boredom. Sometimes a glazed look is simply because the other person is thinking about what you are saying and contemplating their own response.
If the person you are talking to starts to lose interest in what you are saying, think about what you are talking about and try to turn it in a new direction to re-engage them. Alternatively, stop at an appropriate point to ask them a question that will re-engage them with the conversation. Think about how you can use humour to increase the energy of the conversation again.
Networking is all about building long term connections with prospective business leads so remember to get in touch with new contacts after the event. Taking notes about new contacts and what you spoke about at the event will help to jog your memory and is crucial for this step of the process.
Try to develop connections by suggesting meeting with people who interest you on a one-to-one basis so you can find out more and get to know each other better.
Face-to-face networking with prospective leads can be worth its weight in gold if you get the approach right. When you go to your next networking event, take a few moments to stand back and observe other people. People watching can often be the best way to master your skills.