Ways to Improve Your Business Networking

Derrick Fung
67 upvotes by Quora User, Quora User, Alex Wu, Darren Fung, (more)

Over the years, I've had the opportunity to meet all kinds of people all over the world: bankers, doctors, lawyers, athletes, physicists, media moguls, entrepreneurs, music executives, and the list goes on. I've read countless books on networking and relationship building, including classics like Never Eat Alone and How to Win Friends and Influence People (1936 book). I've observed how different people from different backgrounds may differ in their networking strategies. I've learned that networking and relationship building is really an art, not a science. Business schools often teach students how to dress, act, and present themselves, but they often fail to teach students one fundamental concept, which is the foundation and purpose of network. No, it's not how you dress, how you do your hair, how slick your business cards are, or even how suave you are. It's very simple. You need to genuinely care about the other person. You need to see past all the handshakes, head nods, smiles and "positive body language". If you don't genuinely care about the other person, you might as well not network at all.

Building a relationship takes time. Some of the most successful sales people in the world have taken years to develop some of their most powerful relationships. And they didn't do it by wining and dining them; they did it by caring. With all the "noise" of networking aside, it truly comes down to showing someone that you are; that they matter; and that you want to build a genuine relationship with them that will add value to both of your lives. How do you go about doing that? It's not as hard as you may think...

Smile

"Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy". — Thich Nhat Hanh

Smiling is a universally recognized visible expression of happiness. Many people often don't know how others perceive them. When you smile, you are showing someone that you are positive and happy to be in their presence. Many articles will tell you the benefits of smiling (Top 10 Reasons to Smile) and it's especially important while networking. When you smile, it brings you on the same level as the other person and instantly makes any feelings of inferiority or intimidation disappear.

Spend 10% of the time talking about yourself and 90% of the time listening and understanding the other person.

A lot of people spend so much time talking about themselves, but that's not how you build a relationship. When you genuinely care about the other person, you want to get to know them; where they went to school; what their daughter's name is; what sports they like, and the list goes on. With today's technology, they will probably look you up on LinkedIn anyway, so there's no need to blab on about your resume and credentials. If you really spend some time to understand them as a person, you will build a deeper connection.

Learn to give without taking.

Many people see networking as a zero-sum game; one person always gives, and the other person always takes. That's not true. The best relationships are the ones where you had no underlying intentions to get to know someone, but you end up getting so much more than you expected. If you know someone who you think they should meet, connect them. If you see a great deal on the internet, forward it to them. Strong relationships are business shouldn't be based on a give-and-take mentality. By listening and understanding someone, you will learn what really makes them tick and when you have the opportunity to make them happy, do so without asking for anything in return.

Remember their favourite word.

Don't forget their favourite word aka their name. People love hearing it because it shows that they're important enough to you for you to remember it. Use it often when you're speaking to them. If you're bad with names, there are ways to improve that - here's an interesting post on that topic: How to Remember People's Names.

Those are some of the most important things to remember when networking. Networking and relationship building for business is something that can be improved over time - not many people are born as naturally good networkers. Below are some small "networking hacks" that may help you be a better networker, but don't even consider them until you truly internalize the points above, because what really matters at the end of the day is that you genuinely care about giving back to your contacts.



Networking Hacks:

  • After someone gives you their business card, write down 2-3 keywords about the other person on the back of the card (i.e. kid's name, hobbies, birthday)
  • Use LinkedIn's Inmail feature to reach out to contacts you would otherwise not have access to and try to include mutual contacts in the message to legitimize your outreach
  • Always make eye contact; if you don't, it seems like you are trying to hide something
  • Dress well and look sharp; people generally like to associate themselves with people who look the part
  • Send a friendly follow-up immediately after you meet someone and try to include something from the conversation you had with him/her (i.e. "it was nice chatting with you about aliens on Mars")
  • Make sure you have an up-to-date LinkedIn profile; populate it with as much as possible to make yourself seem like a personal people would like to get to know; make sure you have a nice photo too!
  • If you want to take it to another level, use CRM software (i.e. SalesForce, Highrise HQ, etc) to keep track of where your contacts are all located in case you want to reach out only to certain people if you are going to a certain location for a business trip, etc. These tools have great functionality to manage any type of business relationship
  • Use tools like Boomerang (http://www.boomeranggmail.com/) and Rapportive (http://www.rapportive.com/); they are awesome
  • Make sure you know the birthday of your closest friends/relationships/contacts - a simple "Happy Birthday" goes a long way
  • Every now and then, don't forget to tell someone how awesome they are
  • Send an email out to potential customers and clients once in a while to tell them some of the awesome things you are doing, but do it in a non boastful way
  • Connect people with others daily without asking for anything in return

Do you have any good networking tips? Leave a comment!