There is more to networking than simply attending networking events and handing out business cards. If this is the extent of your present networking strategy, you can do better to attract new business.

There's also more to networking than instant gratification. The goal is to build lasting relationships, and one major part of doing this is getting to know people you want to do business with. You don't get to know someone by handing them your business card or even just by telling them in five minutes about yourself and your business. Networking – or any relationship, for that matter – is a process of give and take. Take in the information they want to share with you and follow up with them. The better you understand a person's values and motives, the more you’ll have to work with.

When you attend a networking event and are fortunate enough to find yourself in a position to have a dialogue with someone, focus on that person. Ask them about themselves. What line of work are they in? What products or services do they provide? What do they like or dislike about the market? What concerns do they have?

People love to talk about themselves, and the more they do, the more information you’ll have to file away in your brain about the type of people and businesses you are dealing with – and can potentially form relationships with. Just listen. Actively listen and pay attention.

The more detailed discussions you have with someone at a networking event, the greater chance you have of discovering common interests or even common acquaintances. These are the types of things that can lead to relationships. If you feel a connection with someone, ask them for their business card before parting ways, and they'll probably ask for yours as well. Now, you have a way to keep in touch, and you can use what you've learned about them in the future, including the possibility of following up with a more detailed presentation. Again, it's not about instant gratification.

It's called networking for a reason. The more of these relationships that you're able to build, the larger and stronger your personal network becomes. You never know when or how this is going to benefit, but the larger and more personal that network becomes, the more chances that doors will open for you. These doors could be new partnerships or simply a friendly voice to discuss business with. They may even be new direct business from the specific person or from someone they've recommended your business to. People like to do business with those they know and trust, so be that person.

Dale Carnegie’s book How to Win Friends and Influence People1 was published in the 1930s, and almost a century later, its advice is just as relevant. In fact, less than a decade ago it was named number 19 on Time Magazine's list of 100 most influential books. The book lists six ways to make people like you:

  1. Become genuinely interested in other people
  2. Smile
  3. Remember that a person's name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language
  4. Be a good listener
  5. Talk in terms of the other person's interest
  6. Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely

Simply put: be friendly, and show genuine interest. Good advice in the 1930’s that still applies today.

Think about the relationships you want to develop, and what results you would want from a conversation at a networking event. Now, assume the person on the other side of the conversation has similar goals. After all, they're attending a networking event, too.

As Zig Ziglar, author, salesman, and motivational speaker, said, “If people like you, they will listen to you. But if they trust you, they’ll do business with you.” Developing mutually beneficial relationships is one of the best ways to build trust, and it all starts with networking.

 

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/How_to_Win_Friends_and_Influence_People

The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice. Any views expressed in this article may not necessarily be those of Nevada State Bank. Nevada State Bank is a division of Zions Bancorporation, N.A. Member FDIC