In many ways, all business interactions can be termed networking. When we attend a meeting, a lunch or a training course, we introduce ourselves and meet other people – we are effectively networking. In this article, I am going to look at “proactive networking” i.e. where you come prepared, you actively participate and you follow-up. This, to me, is what real networking should be.
When networking, we create the opportunity to engage with a person a second time. The first meeting is the networking part where you establish an interest to see if there is a shared business need, be it sharing of information or the provision of services or products. The second meeting is to see how I can help you or how you may help me. Unfortunately for many people, the second meeting never happens because the pathway to the second meeting was never created.
The following tips can help you make networking pay dividends for you, your customers and your service providers:
- Arrive prepared
- Have business cards with you
- Start with people you are comfortable with
- Develop relationships, find things in common
- Give a clear, short introduction of your company and your role
- Actively listen to other people
- Don’t only talk to the people you know
- Have a clear focus in your message
- Take the opportunity to increase brand awareness and promote your image
- Act like a host, not like a guest
- Learn the culture of the group
- Follow-up on contacts after the event – ideally within three days
- See the follow-up as a real piece of work deserving your full attention
- Be open to the business relationship working both ways
- Keep a database of contacts, set goals and measure results
- Continuously build new relationship and maintain the ones you have
- Pick referral sources that are useful to your business
- Be opportunistic: every interaction is a networking opportunity
- Get involved: participate in organisations, events, professional groups
- Ask for feedback on your networking skills
Things to Avoid
- Drinking too much
- Humour that may be out of place
- Settling in at the buffet for the free food
- Monopolising one person
- The wrong clothing
- Moving on too quickly if people seem not important enough
- Being too loud
- Not following through after an event
- Rushing into business relationships
- Inappropriate use of membership lists
- Wasting someone’s time
Barriers to Effective Networking
- Confusing business networking with personal friendship
- Not wanting to talk to strangers
- Waiting too long before contacting
- Waiting until you are introduced by others
- Fear of rejection
Always bear in mind that the person you are talking to has many business connections and, through these, other business opportunities may be possible for you.
The biggest networking mistake I have seen over the years is the belief that it has happened, but we all need to work at it to make it happen.
Written by: Peter Byrne, CEO, South Dublin Chamber
South Dublin Chamber offers many networking opportunities via 150+ B2B events per year, which are sponsored by AIB.
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