Along with interpersonal communications pro Barbara Katz, I have just started a new business to help business people overcome their jitters about “networking” and become more effective relationship builders. Here’s a copy of a press release we just sent out to mark International Networking Day, with terrific tips for building your social capital:
7 tips for building your business network
At its core, business is about people doing business with people they trust. Which is why everyone should care about International Networking Day (Feb. 3) this year – even if, like most of us, you hate networking.
“When most people think of networking, they think of those dreadful events where people simply trade business cards with each other as they search for someone to sell to,” says Barbara Katz, an expert in interpersonal communication.
”Networking should be about meeting people in all walks of life, anytime. Your network should be partners, advisors, referrers, as well as clients and prospects – people whom you know and can turn to whenever you need help or support.”
How do you build a network of trusted business partners? Katz is co-founder of Connectinc, a Toronto-based startup that helps business people build better business relationships. She offers seven tips for becoming a master networker:
Be open to interactions at any time: “Don't wait for a ‘networking event’ to meet other people,” says Katz. “Be bolder about starting conversations anywhere you tend to meet people: on an airplane, waiting for a bus, at parties, special events and conferences. Start up a conversation, and you never know where it will take you.”
Never pigeon-hole people. Don't pass up meeting people because they don't look like your idealized prospect, says Katz. The boring-looking guy in the corner guy might be an adventure traveler with a million stories; the woman with the tattoo may own her own business. “Be open to new people and new ideas,” says Katz. “They may bring a different way of looking at the world that could open new opportunities and experiences for you.”
Don’t worry about opening lines: Many of us miss the chance to meet new people because we're too busy trying to think of a brilliant “opening line” that will break the ice. “The simplest opening line is “Hi there, I’m Barbara. Nice to meet you,” says Katz. “After that, most people will happily start talking.”
Overcome your stress by focusing on the other person.Chances are, they’re just as nervous as you about the networking experience. Put them at ease by asking them about their interests and experiences. “Showing genuine interest in others is one of the highest compliments we can give people,” says Katz. “It’s also a great way to reduce the stress you might feel about having to carry the conversation.”
Don't sell. Get to know others as people first before you talk business. “You build trust by talking about values, emotions and experiences,” says Katz. “If you bring up business too soon, people may think they're being sold something, and they’ll shut right down.”
To kindle warm, interesting conversations, Katz suggests asking fun, open-ended questions that get people talking. She recommends questions such as “What always makes you smile?” or “What’s one thing no one would ever guess just by looking at you?”
6. To build rapport, look for “common ground” statements to connect you both. Simple comments such as “My sister also went to Queen’s, she loved it,” or “I hate cheesecake too!” can spark lively conversations that quickly shift new relationships to a deeper level.
7. Look for ways to create value for other people. Maybe you can recommend a restaurant or an accountant, or volunteer to refer someone to your colleague’s business. “Always try to help people before you ask for anything from them,” says Katz. “Your goal should be to make a memorable impression on anyone you’d like to meet again.”
“A network isn’t a stack of business cards in a drawer,” concludes Katz. “It’s a group of people you care about, and who care about you. It’s a valuable asset, so you have to treat it with care and respect.”
Connectinc is dedicated to improving the networking experience and building long-term, win-win business relationships. We help business people become more effective and confident in connecting with others, and teach people how to develop deeper, more lasting and more personal business relationships.
About Barbara Katz
Barbara Katz is a trained Co-Active Coach through the Coaches Training Institute in San Rafael, California, and specializes in interpersonal communications. She owns a special-events business focused on large-scale event logistics and corporate events for clients in the financial, automotive, communications, IT and retail industries.
You can contact Barbara at 416-994-2555, or firstname.lastname@example.org.