We talk a lot about collaboration at Sperry Van Ness®. I believe effective business networking comes down to putting the interests of others first to build relationships. If you can find the time to help others, new business will often find you.
The organization Commercial Real Estate Women – widely known as CREW – has helped me expand my business network through the years. So when I was recently asked to speak on effective business networking at a CREW event in Memphis, Tenn., my immediate answer was yes to the panel — and yes to the fantastic barbecue down South.
Here are just a few of the thoughts I shared as a member of that panel discussion:
Take an interest in other people
I like to keep index cards on my desk with some of my favorite points from the Dale Carnegie book How to Win Friends and Influence People. Carnegie reminds us of “Six Ways to Make People Like Us:”
- Become genuinely interested in other people.
- Remember a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
- Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
- Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.
- Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely.
Take your networking to the next level (obtain the deal/business/contract)
Beyond that first handshake, it takes hard work to continue building a business relationship. In our ever-changing tech world, take the time to send a handwritten thank you, drop a note, make a call, or forward an article of interest. You need to establish rapport and credibility so your referral source is thinking of you should an opportunity arise. Prospecting takes time and I do it daily.
I understand we all get busy and take the path of least resistance. Reach out and you’ll be amazed at what can happen.
How and when do you ask for business?
Follow leads – and your gut.
Most of the time business and referrals will come to you because you’ve spent years building strong relationships. But you have to start somewhere. It’s OK to reach out and ask someone if they may be able to help you. Tell them you thought they may be a good resource. Find out what they value and learn more about their needs. Take an active interest in them. Other things to keep in mind:
- How can you help the person sitting across from you? I always ask this question.
- Be genuine – all they can say is no.
- If they say no, ask them why. Ask them if they have existing relationships. Ask them gently for feedback or suggestions as you are trying to find ways to reach out and grow your business. Ask how you can help them going forward.
- Remember not to take it personally if they say no. Sometimes we tend to beat ourselves up when rejected. Realize we are not meant to do business with everyone. Move on.
Create a 30-60-90 day plan
Create a plan and work the plan! When you’re done, compare it to your strategic business plan and look carefully at how you’ll overcome obstacles. Ask yourself what is holding you back. Make a list of your accomplishments and know your value proposition. Be prepared to answer why you should be considered for the business. Know the why and believe in yourself as you might just get asked.
– Karen Hurd
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