Chamber Member Karen Taylor Shares Networking Tips

Business Networking

As an introvert, just the thought of attending a networking event would cause me to break into a sweat. How terribly awkward to walk into a room full of strangers; what would I say, how should I act, would anyone approach me to help break the ice, or would I end up standing in a corner or sitting at a table by myself? To avoid that frightening scenario, I would rationalize that I did not need to go because it would be a waste of time so I would decline the invitation.

However, when I launched my business in 2011 I realized I would have to find a way to work through the nervousness if my business was going to be successful. So I read countless articles and blog posts written by small business networking experts, and found the new way of networking is much more relaxed and genuine. It is no longer about handing out as many business cards as you can hoping that will attract new business, or the self-imposed pressure of gathering new contacts.

Modern networking is a marathon, not a sprint. It is about creating and building relationships with the people you meet. For introverts, it means more one-on-one conversations, which are more comfortable than talking to groups of people. It will take time to build what is known as your KLT Factor (know, like and trust); however, it will be well worth it because new clients and business will come flooding in. People buy from people they know, like and trust.

The following tips can be used at all types of networking occasions:

  • What to write on name tags. If you try to fit your first and last name and your company’s name on your tag, it will be difficult for someone to read it. Instead, write your first name and under that, what you do. Your last name and company are not necessary because that information is on your business cards. And if you put the name tag on your right, it will be in the line of vision when you shake hands.
  • A good handshake is crucial. Regardless of gender, a handshake should be firm; not flimsy or hand crushing. Keep the fingers together with the thumb up and extend your arm, shake hands while maintaining eye contact, and smile. The handshake should only last for about three seconds, which is very fast for a first impression. So be sure to convey sincerity and warmth every time.
  • It’s about them, not you. Start the conversation by asking open-ended questions instead of immediately talking about your business. This will put both of you at ease because a natural conversation will develop, which is much better than relaying short bursts of information. Listen attentively to the answers so you can tailor what to say when it is your turn to talk.
  • Fake it until you make it. When it is your turn, be sure to exude confidence (through body language, tone of voice and your chosen words) when talking about your business and what you do. If your level of confidence is not yet where you would like it, there is that saying “fake it until you make it”!
  • Your business card is an important sales tool. Include your mailing address, email address, and phone number and use the valuable real estate on the back. I include three questions on the back of my cards to help recipients determine if they need my services, and they are able to accurately describe what I do if they pass along my information. There is also a call to action about contacting me to schedule a free consultation. Always carry 10 cards in your wallet or purse, and bring at least 20 cards to formal networking events.

And although your business card is a sales tool, it is recommended you give your card only upon request. To give your card to someone without first being asked is considered poor etiquette, and may result in the loss of future business.

The more you practice these tips, the sooner they will become second nature. When you approach networking as an opportunity to build lasting relationships, everything else will fall into place.

This article was provided by Karen Taylor of Virtually on Demand.