Networking Entails Much More than Just Exchanging Business Cards
An elegant lady approached me with her business card in hand and, in perfect form, held it in front of me with both hands in front of me, signaling for me to receive it. This happened some years ago at a Chamber of Commerce Business Card Exchange. I grinned as I pulled the card away from her. She raised her head and murmured, in a courteous tone, “Thank you,” before turning and walking away. What a tragedy. In front of me stood a lady who seemed well-intentioned and who most likely ran an intriguing company but had no idea what she was doing at the card exchange. Somewhere along the line, she came to believe that you were expected to give out as many business cards as possible in the shortest amount of time possible. Clearly, this results in nothing more than the squandering of business cards. This is excellent for card firms, but not so good for yours.
Someone on the opposite end of the spectrum is someone who spends all of their time at a card exchange chatting to the same person, sometimes even someone from their own organization. This is, once again, completely counter-productive. The objective of a business card exchange is to introduce you to new individuals in a relaxed and comfortable environment.
While there are numerous excellent publications to help you refine your networking abilities, such as Sue Roane’s How to Work a Room, the core of networking is rather straightforward.
Relationships are the lifeblood of every business. I’ve always believed that everything we do revolves around human relationships, and that a company is just a platform for us to carry out those relationships.
Following along with that concept, building your company is all about creating and nurturing connections, and card exchanges and other similar networking events are really just the beginning of what will hopefully evolve into a mutually productive relationship for all parties involved.
Due to the limited amount of time you have available, you should minimize your interactions with individuals, particularly those you are already acquainted with. Making plans to follow up with someone you’re talking to at a later date after feeling a resonance with them is the best way to go on to meet someone else. I’m certain that the shy-looking individual in the corner, who is most likely attending for the first time, will have something fascinating to say. Why not offer your hand to the person across the table?
The second major faux pas that I see over and over again is folks who come into a networking gathering with a “me, me, me” attitude toward everyone else. It is preferable to begin by getting to know the other person first. Then you have the option of explaining why what you do could be of interest to them in the future. This creates a more solid foundation for communication because, as legendary public speaker Zig Zigler once said, “You obtain what you want by helping other people achieve what they want.”
Take an interest in other people.
There are more effective methods of networking and meeting potential business connections. As a starting point (no pun intended), people are more receptive if you initially express an interest in them and what they do. An ancient saying goes that we have one mouth and two ears for a purpose, and it’s true in certain cases. If you listen more than you speak, you will instantly attract the attention of those who are more interested in conversing with you and being in your company.
In the words of marketing expert Jay Abraham, “discovery is the fuel of competitive advantage.” Curiosity is contagious. Develop an interest in other people and what it is that motivates them. You really care about the other person. If you take the time to look into it, you will discover that even those who seem to be pretty ordinary have a fascinating tale to tell you. Not only will you boost your chances of doing business with them, but you may also make a friend in the process.
What is the best way to go about it?
When you do introduce yourself, make a point of stating the benefits of doing business with you in your first sentence. “Hello, my name is Mary, and I work in the insurance industry.” is not that intriguing. However, if you were to add, “My name is Mary, and I assist individuals in preparing for the uncertainty that may be in their future,” it would be a very different story. If the other individual is even somewhat interested, they will inquire as to “How do you do that?” At this point, you have opened the door for a more detailed explanation or “commercial” for your company’s products or services. Proceed to discuss the advantages of your goods and services in more detail.
As an exercise, come up with three or four different ways to introduce your company. Allow each of them to concentrate on a distinct advantage of your product or service. At your next networking event, put each of these to the test.
Keep in mind that individuals do not purchase items or services; rather, they purchase benefits and solutions.
The more you concentrate on expressing the advantages of utilizing your goods or services, the greater the likelihood that you will profit from an increase in customer traffic.
With new business prospecting becoming more difficult, personal relationships are becoming ever more vital, and the Chamber of Commerce Card Exchange provides the ideal setting in which to do so, not to mention that the food is typically very delicious.