There’s a popular saying that goes, “It’s often not what you know, but who you know.” Now, that’s not always the case, but in most instances you’ll find that the more people you know, the better off you’ll be.
But it all comes down to knowing the right people; the ones who will help you get where you want to go. To find them, you have to be someone who isn’t afraid to meet new people. You have to be a great networker. And most importantly, you have to know how to network.
Boston-based event organizer Robbie Samuels knows a thing or two about connecting with people and consults on a number of different networking techniques. Direct Capital is here to share some of them with you today and explain how you can use them in your small business networking world to become better at meeting key people in the industry.
- Don’t ask the first question that comes to mind. The first thing you usually want to ask people is “What do you do?” because you think it opens the lines of communication. However, Samuels says, it almost always comes across as “cold ambition” rather than genuine. Also, think of how sick you are at answering that question. Samuels also suggests not making generic comments about anyone’s accents, skin color, or, for example, asking a pregnant woman about the pregnancy. What he does suggest are compliments or questions that help get to know a different side of a person like, “How did you hear about this event?”
- Be open to communication. We know you won’t be standing in the back corner with your drink and appetizers all alone. The whole point of a networking event is to be social so we know you’ll be talking with other attendees. However, Samuels says that if you are a regular at a particular event, don’t stick to communicating with other regulars. It’s great that you know people, but that’s the point: You already know them. Make it a point to talk to at least five people you’ve never met. Get to know them. Shake their hand. Be genuinely interested. Make the connection.
- Write a rough draft of your follow-up emails before the event. We know this sounds weird, but Samuels says this will make it easier for you to strike up conversation. In your draft, you can make notes of topics you’d like to discuss as though you’ve already spoken with someone. This way, you’ll know what you want to talk about before even arriving. Plus, after the event, you’ll have a leg up when writing the follow up and thank yous. All you’ll have to do is plug and play.
- End the conversation smoothly. Sometimes, ending a conversation can be just as difficult as starting one. But at some point you have to move on and interact with others. Samuels tip (and ours) is to do it graciously. His favorite go-to line is: “I don’t know that many people here. Is there anyone you think I should meet?” This gives you a reason to step away while also making the person you were speaking with feel like a connector.
A GreatBusinessSchools.org infographic shows that 95% of people surveyed said face-to-face meetings are essential for long-term business relationships. Getting and keeping those relationships, the infographic suggests, is done by a look, a handshake, and a good business card.
Bring everything to the table at your next networking event – including the four little-known tips above – and you’ll be on your way to building better business relationships now and in the future.
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