by George Smart
In an age of global competition, today’s information professionals engage in a sport that isn’t found on an Olympic roster. Chambers of Commerce, conferences, and other business meetings form the backdrop for networking, a form of interaction professionals use to build profitable relationships.
George Smart, CEO of Strategic Development, Inc., a professional speaker and strategic planning consultant to Internet companies, defines networking as “creating and exchanging business information in one-on-one conversation.” Says Smart, who has worked with over 18000 people in the last 12 years, “Networking can be an old, tired term – or it can be your ticket to greater influence, recognition, and referrals.”
When you meet someone new, you have to be effective quickly. Most people only truly listen about 90 seconds before they make judgments about you. The 90-second “honeymoon” period is critical for making a favorable impression.
And the old adage, ‘It’s not what you know, but who you know” is certainly true. Networking builds a foundation of people who know you and will tell others. Here are seven proven steps to improve your networking ability and effectiveness.
1. Introduce yourself clearly. Though this step may seem obvious, it is often overlooked. How many times has someone come up to you, started talking, and you did not know who they were? Say first say your name and company then ask for the same from your listener.
2. Be specific when describing what services or products your com-pany offers. Don’t just say “I’m in computers.” Instead say something more specific like, “My firm specializes in local area networks for the real estate industry.”
3. Organize your introduction. Have a 15-second opening statement that describes what you do. If your product or service is very technical or hard to explain, have a few 30-second stories ready that will help illustrate what you do. Stories, if kept to the point, help create and maintain listener interest.
4. Inform, don’t sell. Stress the importance of simply informing the listener rather than coming on with a sales pitch. When in doubt, low-key is always better.
5. Be yourself. Putting on another persona can make you look silly, or artificial, or both. Learn all you can about what makes people receptive, but remember that there is no substitute for authenticity.
6. Truly listen. Don’t plan your next line of dialogue while the other person is speaking. Good listening helps pinpoint the other person’s needs and builds trust and confidence.
7. Follow up. Get their business card and send a personal note to follow up. It’s unlikely that your listener will have an immediate need for your product or service. But if they say “drop by my office,” do so. If they say “call me in six months,” and you do, they will remember that you remembered!