Six "networking thoughts" for success, plus one bonus

Jim Blasingame

Networking is one of the three most important areas small business owners should focus on in the 21st century. The other two are leveraging technology and developing strategic alliances. 

My definition of networking is: actively making professional relationships, developing and maintaining those relationships, and leveraging them for the benefit of all parties. But before you can develop a relationship, you first have to meet the other person and establish a basis for future contact.

Networking opportunities are everywhere you turn, but especially at Chamber of Commerce events or any venue likely to be attended by business and community leaders.

Before you enter a networking environment, it's important to understand that successful networking is an acquired skill, like playing golf.  In fact, we could actually take a lesson from those who seek the little white ball.

Good golfers address each shot with what are called "swing thoughts." They orient their pre-swing routine - and the actual swing - around these fundamentals, which will help them make a good shot. 

Inspired by the work of my friend, Andrea Nierenberg, author of Nonstop Networking, I've created a few networking thoughts, or NT for short. Please, try these at home.

NT #1.  Make eye contact
One of the worst things that can be said about your human interaction skills is that you don't look the person you're talking to in the eye.  Andrea says you should be able to remember the color of the person's eyes that you just met.

NT #2.  More ears - less mouth
This is an old adage, but it's an essential NT for most of us. You'll be more likely to impress someone by your interest in them rather than the other way around.

NT #3.  Smile
Ladies are usually better at this than men. But the smile must be genuine, and is best accomplished in combination with NT #1.

NT #4.  Firm handshake
Men are usually better at this than the ladies, but don't turn it into a wrestling match. And guys, when you're shaking the hand of a lady, it's the opposite of dancing: let the lady lead. Ladies, that means offer your hand first and give 'em a good squeeze. 

NT #5. Elevator speech
This is your very short and concise response if someone asks what you do. And unless one of you is actually getting off an elevator, be thinking about NT #2, and follow your little speech with a sincere inquiry about them.

NT #6. Successful networking benefits all parties
Re-read the definition of networking.  Enter any networking opportunity with NT #6 on your mind, instead of "What's in it for me?" and your networking success will increase exponentially. This is also the Law of Reciprocity, which Ivan Misner, founder of BNI shortened into: Givers gain. 

Write this on a rock ... Bonus NT: It's net-working, not net-playing.

Jim Blasingame is the author of the award-winning book, The Age of the Customer: Prepare for the Moment of Relevance.


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