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Learn Basic Business Networking Skills

From Emjae Johnson

No need to shy away from business networking if you know how to do it properly. Business networking is a skill and in its most advanced form it can truly be considered an art in itself. There are some simple steps of how to learn basic business networking skills and I think that you will find them very easy to do. Nothing complicated here. I don't believe Sales as a profession should be complicated or stressful and business networking can be not only an effective means to help build your leads list, you can have lots of fun doing it!

There are many places and scenarios that you can utilize networking skills but these twelve steps of how to learn basic business networking skills will apply primarily to the typical prearranged business networking event. As you learn and practice each step you will be able to transfer your new skills into any other networking situation.
  •   Get Details About the Networking Event in Advance
Before you attend a business networking event make sure you know the agenda in advance. Some business networking events may include appetizers and refreshments, but not all, so be sure that you have a meal before you go as it is hard to be energized about meeting new people and be your best if your stomach is empty. Also, inquire ahead of time if the host issues a list of attendees and if they do be sure to request one. Read through and study it so that you have an idea of who you want to connect with while you are there.
  • Dress Appropriately and Arrive a Few Minutes Early
At most business networking events the attire is business casual unless they state otherwise. Your appearance should be as polished as when you go to work or better because good first impressions make a positive impact. Wearing a dark colored blazer jacket is a good choice because it has pockets for pens and business cards and also because a name badge is more outstanding on the lapel of a jacket. Whether you are right or left handed, it is proper to shake hands with your right hand so wear your name badge on your right side so that there is a direct line of vision to it when you extend your right arm to greet someone.
  • Bring Your Business Cards and Something to Write With
Business cards are a must at a business networking event. You may even want to consider printing separate business cards specifically for networking events although this is not necessary. Also, bring more that just one pen to the event -- bring a few because you are sure to meet someone there who needs a pen. It is not uncommon that someone forgot to bring one, or they lost theirs or the one they had ran out of ink! Supplying someone with a pen can be a great way to be remembered and also a terrific way to say hello!
  • Have Your "Opener" Prepared
If you have not created your own opener yet, now is the time to do so. Always make your opener is short and sweet and practice your delivery so that it is causal and natural. Remember, the skill you want to develop here is to focus only on connecting with people and making new business relationships and not to try and sell anything.
  • Decide in Advance How Many People You Would Like to Meet
You can stress yourself out at business networking events if you try to do too much. You really can only comfortably meet about five people in the time you have at most events; sometimes a few less and sometimes a few more. So, decide in advance how many people you would like to meet and try not to exceed that goal.If you rush from person to person then you will have lost the idea that you are there to develop new relationships and this is done at a slower pace because relationships are built on trust; trust takes the time to get to know someone.
  • Have the Mindset of Being a Resource to Others
When you are a resource to others, it means that you are in some ways viewed as an expert. You could be an expert at sharing other contacts with people who are experts. When you are a resource of information to people you increase your value to them and they will want to know you better. Be careful not to be a know-it-all or be too pushy with what or who you know; always have the intent to be helpful and it will be greatly remembered and appreciated.
  • Stand at the Entrance and Meet and Greet
One way to be very active at a business networking event is to stand near the entrance, or even just past the registration area, and meet and greet attendees as they come in. Point out to them where they can put their hat and coat, where the refreshments are and even where the washrooms are located. This can make a great first impression as well as relieve some stress if you are feeling a little nervous. Taking the initiative to meet and greet can be a very winning and enjoyable activity.
  • Approach Smaller Groups of Attendees
While working your way through the crowd of other networking attendees, try to approach only smaller groups of people of about three or four if this is at all possible. A smaller more intimate group of this size lends itself more to having a more relaxed conversation because it is easier to focus on each person individually.
  • Be Pleasant, Relaxed and Polite
At a business networking event always be respectful and mannerly. Never interrupt while someone else is talking. Do your best, even though there may be a crowd, to allow people their personal body space and do not crowd in on them; be careful not to bump elbows and step on toes. Pay attention and be aware as to who is around you and you'll be able to avoid this problem.
  • Ask Questions that are of Genuine Interest to You
At a business networking event, there will be a lot of exchange of light conversation because most are meeting people for the first time. Once you are past this, ask more inquisitive questions such as; how long have they been in business, how many locations do they have, how many years have they been in the industry, or what got them started in that path or direction. These types of questions will draw someone out to talk a bit more so that you can get to know them. Be yourself and be genuine. Never try to make a sale at a networking event!
  • Always Ask for Their Business Card
With each person that you meet and have some conversation with, politely ask them for one of their business cards. The exchange of business cards is a very common activity at business networking events but often you can come away with too many cards so try to be selective of who you ask. Make notes on the back of the card of things you talked about to jog your memory later on when you want to follow-up with them. If they do not ask you for one of your cards, do not be upset about this. When you know how to properly use a business card then you will understand how there is plenty of time later on to get your card to them and in a more effective manner.
  •  Follow Up with Hand Written Notes
If you really want to make an impact on your new contacts, write them a hand written note instead of following up with a phone call. It does not have to be long, and if you made good notes of what you talked about, then you can make reference to it. This is sure to leave a lasting impression. Follow the steps on how to properly use a business card to find out the details of how to use a hand written note for follow up.

Always make sure that after each event that you add your new contacts to your leads list. Stay in touch with them often and include them in when you are looking to refer someone to. Also, just a final word of caution; business networking is not just a time to socialize, although some networking opportunities are not easily distinguished from it. The intent of business networking is to stay on the track to building a business relationship that will hopefully be mutually beneficial. Discipline yourself to develop good business networking skills and you will soon have hundreds of people who will no longer be called "contacts" or "leads" but they will be called friends. People buy from and refer people to those they trust, like and admire -- sounds a lot like a friend doesn't it?
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