Business Networking is an investment, not a collection of phone numbers.
Just one faux pas during your business networking can leave a bad taste in someone’s mouth that loses you dozens of potential connections. Relationships take work and nurturing, whether they’re personal or business. Make the time to take care of the little things and you’ll soon earn a reputation for professionalism and courtesy that people respect.
You’ll find when this happens, your connections will refer to you all the time, and they start the right kind of conversation, which is just what you’re looking for!
Never give someone the name and number of one of your contacts without asking that person first. Instead, you can say something like, “I know someone who might be able to help you. Let me ask her if it’s ok to give you her name and get back to you.”
If it’s okay with your contact, create a proper introduction, via email or LinkedIn message. This gives your contacts the opportunity to arrange a mutually beneficial time to have a chat. Remember to follow up with them both, to make sure it was both the correct referral and to gain feedback.
Don’t walk into a networking event looking like a slob, unless that’s the image you want to portray. If you’re not sure of the appropriate attire, dress a little bit nicer rather than more casually. Sure, there are plenty of people who say “come as you are”, and “be yourself” but they don’t mean it. Human beings are visual people, they expect neat and tidy dress.
If you said you’ll introduce someone to one of your contacts, make sure you follow-up with the name and number after checking with that person. If you promised to send someone information about another event, make a note to send it.
So many people make promises and never deliver, you’ll soon stand out if you follow up.
Speaking to someone on the phone is less time-consuming than an email, but it still requires an appointment. Send an email or message via social media first to request a call, and be open to them saying no.
Even if you haven’t made specific commitments to your new contacts, you need to make an effort to stay visible and develop those relationships. Connect on social media, comment on their blogs, send holiday cards (virtual or physical) and drop them a note from time to time on Linkedin.
As part of your follow-up, make sure you thank everyone who provided the slightest tip, name, advice, or other helpful piece of information. Tailor your thank-you based on the person and the help offered. You might send a private message on LinkedIn, a formal thank-you card, or even just a tweet. Expressing thanks shows what a thoughtful person you are, and you become memorable.
Use your common sense in all your business networking. If you wouldn’t behave that way amongst family, don’t do it when you’re networking!
What would you add to this business networking 101?
Jackie Groundsell is known as the queen of women's business networking lunches - the connector. She supports thousands of small business owners through her events and lunch-time meetings