by Ivan R. Misner, Ph.D & Douglas C. Means
Do you suffer from “Butterfly-itis” at the very mention of networking at business functions? If you answered yes, you are not alone! Many of us as human beings – let alone business people and entrepreneurs – get a bit uncomfortable when it comes right down to walking up to someone and starting a conversation. Many others are concerned about getting effective results from the time they spend networking. The process doesn’t have to be traumatic, scary, or a waste of time. When done properly, it can truly make a difference in the amount of business your company generates. With the right approach, you can use it to build a wealth of resources and contacts that will help to make your business very successful.
Use the following 10 Commandments to help you network your way through your next business networking event:
- Have the tools to network with you at all times.
- Set a goal for the number of people you’ll meet.
- Act like a host, not a guest.
- Listen and ask questions.
- Don’t try to close a deal.
- Give referrals whenever possible.
- Exchange business cards.
- Manage your time efficiently.
- Write notes on the backs of business cards you collect.
- Follow up!
These include an informative name badge, business cards, brochures about your business, and a pocket-sized business card file containing cards of other professionals whom you can refer.
Identify a reachable goal based on attendance and the type of group. If you feel inspired, set a goal to meet fifteen to twenty people and make sure you get all their cards. If you don’t feel so hot, shoot for less. In either case, don’t leave until you’ve met your goal.
A host is expected to do things for others, while a guest sits back and relaxes. Volunteer to help greet people. If you see visitors sitting, introduce yourself and ask if they would like to meet others. Act as a conduit.
Remember that a good networker has two ears and one mouth and uses them proportionately. After you’ve learned what another person does, tell them what you do. Be specific, but brief. Don’t assume they know your business.
These events are not meant to be a vehicle to hit on business people to buy your products or services. Networking is about developing relationships with other professionals. Meeting people at events should be the beginning of that process, not the end of it.
The best networkers believe in the “givers gain” philosophy (what goes around, comes around). If I help you, you’ll be compelled to help me and we’ll both benefit as a result of it. In other words, if you don’t genuinely attempt to help the people you meet, then you are not networking effectively. If you can’t give someone a bona fide referral, try to offer some information that might be of interest to them (such as details about an upcoming event).
Ask each person you meet for two cards – one to pass on to someone else and one to keep. This sets the stage for networking to happen.
Spend ten minutes or less with each person you meet and don’t linger with friends or associates. If your goal is to meet a given number of people, be careful not to spend too much time with any one person. When you meet someone interesting with whom you’d like to speak further, set up an appointment for a later date.
Record anything you think may be useful in remembering each person more clearly. This will come in handy when you follow up on each contact.
Yes, #10 (not 0). You can obey the previous nine commandments religiously, but if you don’t follow up effectively, you will have wasted your time. Drop a note or give a call to each person you’ve met. Be sure to fulfill any promises you’ve made.
Dr. Ivan Misner is the Founder and Chairman of BNI, the world’s largest business networking organization, which has more than 5,000 chapters in 37 countries. Dr. Misner is also the author of several books, including the most recent addition to the bestselling Masters Series—Masters of Sales (www.mastersbooks.com), and the New York Times bestseller TRUTH OR DELUSION? (www.truthordelusion.com); and he is the Senior Partner for the Referral Institute (www.referralinstitute.com), a referral training company with operations around the world.
Doug Means, a Director for BNI in San Diego – and member since 2002 – works directly with the Leadership Teams of 10 BNI chapters in San Diego County, and provides monthly educational training for chapter members in support of their success through networking and word-of-mouth marketing. Since 2005 Doug’s organized the meetings for the San Diego Entrepreneur Meetup Group, the San Diego Small Business Meetup Group, and the San Diego Network Marketing Meetup Group – including hosting the most popular monthly speed networking events held in San Diego. Since May of 2008, Doug has also facilitated San Diego-area networking lunch events hosted by Mid-Atlantic Networking.