Don’t Fake It! How To Keep Your Networking Real

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NetworkingNetworking can be a great way to boost your business connections and
great way to, ultimately, boost business. But networking just to network
isn’t the
best practice. When you network, you can’t fake it; you have to be
genuine.

There are techniques to keeping your networking “real.” One way is to have a wingman or wingwoman. “Partner up: Go to the event with a strategically selected partner (someone who is not a competitor but targets the same customers as you) is a great way to meet new faces. Stop and introduce your partner to customers and acquaintances and they will do likewise. This approach is much more informal than cold-calling strangers and will leave your address book groaning under the strain of new contacts,” explains Victor Clarke, who calls himself the “Marketing Quarterback” and is founder of Clarke, Inc.

Stay focused. “The energetic environment of a business event can make it easy to get distracted with non-essential activity. Therefore, you need to set goals. Tempting as it may be, don’t head to the bar at the first invitation (unless it’s with a really good lead). Try setting objectives such as introducing your partner to 10 people or collecting 10 business cards from new contacts. This should keep you on track, and when you’ve hit your goals, feel free to head off for a sandwich and a cocktail,” explains Clarke. “Be interested in the person you’re networking with. Focus on the other person; be interested in him/her, listen attentively instead of prioritizing your own stories,” says Christina Pantin, Public Relations and Communications, Samsung Electronics America.

She adds, “Think of topics you want to raise, do a bit of reading up depending on the group, occasion and event, so that you can contribute something. And go in with an open mind, not with a hidden agenda. Those who are attending solely to collect business cards or contacts like trophies will be very obvious.”

Slow down, take time with each person you meet. It’s not a race to see how many people you can give your business card out to. “Focus on quality over quantity. Avoid the business card shuffle and don’t throw your resume or card to as many people as possible–be memorable with engaging conversation,” advises certified professional coach and founder of NYC-based Strategize That, Lori Scherwin.

Build the relationship. “Follow-up and be consistent. Networking is not a once and done. Relationships take time. Send a note to anyone you meet and would like to stay in contact with, mention a highlight of your conversation, offer to help them and/or remind them of your request,” says Scherwin. “Don’t leave it there–set up a strategy to incorporate ongoing follow-up into your regular practice– and avoid waiting for when you need something.”

People can tell if you’re “faking it.” “You may be saying all the right things, but those who are just attending solely for ulterior motives will stand out by body language (drifting eyes, not really paying attention but scouting the room for a ‘better’ prospect). You never know who you will run into the next time who may have an influence on your career or plans,” Pantin points out.

(CLICK HERE to read a related article about networking.)