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Business Networking Rules of Engagement
There is a no lack of networking advice or tips out there in the blogsphere today. Additionally, you can buy any number of great books by authors such at Keith Ferrazzi and Harvey Mckay. But I have been networking for a long time as well, plus I have read all this material too. So for those of you who are trying to find a job, change jobs or increase your business here are Five Rules to Make You an Effective Business Networker.
Rule #1: Business Networking
Never start a conversation or relationship with someone by asking for something. Yes, I realize that the purpose of networking is to “get’ something, such as a referral or a name, but relationships start better if you are offering something. However, you cannot offer something unless you know the person at least a little bit. So I recommend you start off with this kind of approach.
“Hello Bob, my name is Mike H. Joe S. (the mutual friend) told me you are someone I need to know. I was wondering if I might be able to schedule a brief meeting (or call) in order to see if indeed we can be of mutual benefit to each other?”
Prior to the meeting use social media or search to find out whatever you can about the person you are meeting with. Determine if there is something in their background that might act as a target for some way you can help them with. At the meeting pay attention to what is said, who is talked about, what their background is, where they went to school or any other information that comes from the meeting. Then try to be a resource of information or contacts for that individual.
You will probably shock the person big time by not asking for a name or referral right off the bat. It will be even more memorable if you can offer the person something of value as a result of that first meeting.
Rule #2: Target Your Networking
Be focused and targeted in your networking. The shotgun approach of calling everyone and contacting everyone with no seeming purpose just makes you look desperate. Now you may be desperate, but you do not want to come across that way. Understand what you are trying to learn from each individual and why you are contacting them.
Rule #3: Social Networks are Not Business Networking
Realize that networking is NOT adding someone on LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ or Facebook. Networking is best conducted person to person, or at least voice to voice. The tools help your research and they facilitate the introduction but that is not networking.
Rule #4: Your Networking Success is Your Responsibility
No one is going to take responsibility for you finding a job or finding a new piece of business. You have to take that. So when you are done with meeting someone their memory will fade very fast. Set up a schedule of contact with them and follow up. Watch for information that they will find of value and send it to them. Set up a Google alert or search on key words to notify you of things that your contact may find valuable. You don’t have to do that for everyone, but the very important ones need to get things from you to remind them of your existence.
Rule #5: Be Realistic Yet Effective Business Networking
Be confident but be realistic. Another writer cautioned against trying to reach too high in order to make a contact. It is unlikely that you will be able to connect with Bill Gates, or Donald Trump, or Richard Branson or other mega personalities but that doesn’t mean you should give up hope of reaching someone that has title of President or Vice President. Who knows, perhaps you would eventually be able to reach a superstar if your network gets you there but start more realistically.
There is a ton of networking articles out there, some written for women, some written for shy people, some written for sales people, some written for consultants, etc. Just do a search and do some learning to get started on effective business networking.
Michael (Mike) D. Haberman, SPHR is a consultant, writer, speaker, teacher and co-founder of Omega HR Solutions, Inc. He has been in the field of HR for 30 years as both practitioner and consultant. He specializes in compliance issues for his small business clients. He is the author of the blog HR Observations which can be found at www.omegahrsolutions.com and he has been writing blog posts on a full spectrum of HR topics for almost seven years. He is an active user of Twitter and can be found at @mikehaberman or @HRComplianceGuy. He has been an instructor in HR for 14 years and has helped many people achieve their PHR or SPHR during that time.