Use Networking Thoughts For Success

Jim Blasingame

Networking is one of the three most important areas small business owners should focus on in the 21st century, along with employing 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.

A Chinese proverb says the longest journey must begin with the first step. So before you can develop a relationship, you first have to meet the other person and establish a basis for future contact.

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

But 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 successful 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. See what you think.

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, which can best be 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 you should 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 you what you do before you ask them. And unless one of you is getting off the elevator, you should 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 my definition of networking. If you enter any networking opportunity with NT #6 on your mind, instead of "What's in it for me?" your networking success will increase exponentially.

Write this on a rock... Networking is one of the three most important things a small business owner can do. Be sure to practice your NTs.

Jim Blasingame
Small Business Expert and host of The Small Business Advocate Show
©2008 All Rights Reserved


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