Networking is not about how many bunches of business cards you can hand out in the least amount of time.
I was at an event last week and someone I didn’t know raced up to the booth, interrupted my conversation (body language will indicate there's opening for an interruption), shoved her business card in my face and asked to be connected to a corporate contact. While ‘speed dating’, she couldn’t even wait a moment to meet me prior to asking for something. Knowing nothing beyond what’s on this 3.5x2 business card, there is not a whole lot there for me to connect to. The act of randomly handing out business cards is a numbers game and is rarely effective if not paired with "a moment".
When I evaluate the sources from which my business comes, about 60% starts through referrals – through people with whom I have strong trusting relationships and whom know and like me. 40% come from a variety of other sources, including networking events, articles I post online and from my efforts to connect those I know to others that they need to meet. No matter how secure people look outwardly, networking events make everyone feel awkward. From every challenge comes an opportunity. Make it your business to be the ambassador that introduces people. People will appreciate it returning the favor and you will look like someone worth knowing. But, 100% of my business comes because those who have utilized my services can and do attest to them.
Make sure to have your business card at the ready and your right hand free to warmly shake and extend yourself to the many you will meet. Keep your hands free from food and cell phones. You don't want to send a message that anyone or anything is more important than meeting the people that are the basis of your prosperity. Juggling and fumbling are neither attractive nor relationship builders.
I never give out my business card unless someone asks for it. If I have not developed "a moment" with a person they won't ask for my card or be able to indicate an interest in me. If they’re not interested in furthering the relationship, that is okay. It will happen as it is supposed to.
A lot of people get lazy in the summer. Move yourself from the office to an outdoor cafe, or take it to the golf greens. Enjoy the beautiful weather and find new places to meet people to conduct business. Take advantage of your time in airports, on planes, on Amtrak and hotels this summer and build your relationships. Strike up conversations with people while waiting. Take the time to mingle and get to know people. But don't expect to sell or conduct actual business. Think about your networking efforts and whether what you’re doing is a numbers game or the like and trust factor. Cultivate the seeds this summer of relationships and to see your harvest bloom in the fall.
Julie Sue Auslander, M.Ed, WPO, WBE
President / Chief Cultural Officer
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