Never was networking for business purposes easier than today. Every single individual that could help us realize our business objectives is never more than a few mouse clicks away. Professional advice, connoisseur comments and peer feedback are up for grabs. We know exactly who does what, - and sometimes even why. But how do you convert all these trivia into real business. Respecting the six rules of networking etiquette helps…
Networking has never been easier, - and at the same time we are more and more in doubt about how to do it. Are there any rules one has to respect to network successfully? Is there a code of conduct? Silent agreements? Are there any differences between online networking and networking in real life? Between spontaneous exchange and organized networking opportunities? And how do I start?
Over three quarters of business events exist and survive because they create opportunities for individuals to get acquainted with potential business partners. Or did you really believe that your customers want to know every single detail about your product line a nd come to the launch event to discover it? Did you really believe they come to your booth for a 2% rebate, a drink and a canapé with smoked salmon?
Bob Burg, author of the book ‘The Go-Giver’ is a worldwide authority in business networking. He said: “All things being equal, people will do business with, and refer business to, people they know, like and trust.” Each of the six rules of networking refer to a part of this quote.
1) Patience is the key to success
Nothing is more embarrassing than people who are networking with one eye on their watch. For a moment, you might have the impression that their questions are inspired by a genuine interest in who you are and what you do, but soon you discover that they are actually trying to sell to you. ‘Don’t do that!’, says Bob Burg. You need to go through the three steps – being known, being liked, being trusted – before you can cash in on your efforts.
2) Everybody is welcome
For Burg, the aim of networking is not only doing (direct) business with people you know, like and trust, but also to refer others to them. He opens up the playing field and he thinks every networker should do so. Maybe you are a seasick Steve who hates cruises, but surely there are individuals in your family or neighborhood who are fond of anything nautical and are potential customers of your contact who is in the cruise trip business. Anyone who obeys rule # 1, should be allowed into the circle.
3) Everything is gratuitous
Networking is not rocket science: there is no direct causal relationship between the time and effort you invest in networking and the results you get from it in the long haul. Appreciation and trust grow in an organic way, - and you harvest it repeatedly in small portions. Sometimes, the like & trust-factor comes easily, sometimes you have to take two steps back. With rules #1 and #2 in the back of your mind, accepting the principle that everything is gratuitous is the best protection against disappointment.
4) Respect the host and the ambiance
A networker and a whiner are two different characters. There are plenty of subjects that are not suitable for small talk, - and they differ from one networking occasion to another. And there is also a style that is not suitable if you really want to grow your like & trust-factor: the perpetual whiner style. Rule #3 implies that all networking activity should be gratuitous, rule #4 adds to that a certain level of coziness. Often, the respect that you harvest is a mirror of the respect you show to others, and especially towards the host.
5) Listening is the best way of talking
The first step on the way to successful networking implies that people know who you are and what you stand for. Ergo: you will have to say something (that makes sense) from time to time. For the second and the third step – being appreciated and trusted – listening is a far better strategy. A person that is a good listener, will generally be characterized as social, intelligent, nice and civilized by others. People who only talk about themselves, are easily labelled as egocentric, arrogant and blasé. None of these labels are favorable for your like & trust-factor ; listening is, especially active listening and proving that you are a good listener.
6) Giving is the best way of taking
Knowledge is power, - and that will remain so until further notice. But shared knowledge is double power. The very concept of sharing has become an essential part of our economic system. Someone who keeps all his knowledge and insights for himself, will see his positon weaken gradually. Someone who shares knowledge and insights will see his position gradually get stronger and his like & trust-factor increase exponentially. We prefer to do business with (and refer business to) people who give a lot, - probably because we assume that they will really give a lot for the money we pay them.
Notwithstanding the multitude of platforms and opportunities for online networking, professionals continue to have this need for live one-to-one contact with potential business partners. Business-to-business events – especially trade shows – who understand their role as a facilitator for networking well and know how to add value to this process, do not need to fear competition by the digital highway and have a bright future ahead.