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Sound Business Practices

Networking Tips Build Business Contacts


By Sandy Hershelman

The workday is over. You're tired. You don't want to go out to the mixer. It's dark and raining. The soft couch and TV are calling your name. We've all been there. Sometimes it's hard to remember that effective networking is key to business success.

I'm often asked if joining trade associations and chambers of commerce will bring more business to a firm. It most definitely can and usually does—if you regularly participate in group activities.

People do business with people they like—and people refer people they like. To be remembered, one must be consistently visible. Even if I don't need a landscaper myself, you can bet I'll remember that nice couple sitting next to me at the last dinner meeting.

Networking is not about selling, it's about being known and liked. It's all about strengthening ties with your business associates. It's also a numbers game. If the average person (who likes you) knows 250 people, who each knows 250 people, who each knows. . .well, you get the drift. The possibility of your name coming up at a later date increases with the number of positive contacts you make.

Socializing is an important business tool. Seventy percent of all jobs are found by networking.

A few tips for the next time you're out schmoozing:

  • Have a 30-second commercial prepared in advance. Throw an initial zinger in there to incite more questions. "I build people's dreams" will no doubt spark more conversation. "I'm a builder" makes you sound exactly the same as a third of the other guys in the room.
  • Do dress appropriately. Even if you live in a really laid-back town like I do. . .you're a professional, look like one.
  • Work that room. Don't just stand in a corner with your buddies!
  • Mingle with new faces. If you hang out with your friends, you won't make new acquaintances.
  • Smile. And then smile some more.
  • Do you have a firm handshake? To this day I remember the wimpy handshake of my childhood minister's wife. Even at 8, I realized she really didn't want to be there.
  • Don't be a loner. If you are shy, hang out around a social butterfly. Ms. Butterfly's outgoing nature attracts people. By standing with her, your visibility increases, too.
  • Don't try to close a deal at a mixer.
  • Pass out your business card only if it's appropriate. When you ask someone for a card, ask for two; one to keep and one to pass on. Use the back of the card to write down something about the person you may need to remember.
  • Don't eat and/or drink too much (especially the latter).
  • Don't judge a person too quickly. Treat everyone with respect. If you do get stuck with a creep, be polite, but move on.
  • You don't have to be the Queen of Schmooze to be an effective conversationalist. Listen, ask intelligent open-ended questions, and don't dominate the conversation.
  • Scan the day's newspapers to see what's been happening. And, for goodness sakes, be careful entering into political and religious conversations at a business mixer. Raised voices do not make the type of "memorable moments" you're there to create. (And no one enjoys breaking up squabbles.)
  • Don't forget to follow up on every contact that you make!

More business management articles. . .

© 2004 Sandy Hershelman. All rights reserved.



Date Last Modified:5/28/05
Copyright © 1999-2005 Sandy Hershelman. All rights reserved.