Business Networking Essentials: Its Who-Knows-You … plus Knows-What-You-Know… NOT…Who-You-Know…

“Contrary to popular belief, networking isn’t about racing around the room handing out business cards and trying to close deals – networking is about building solid business relationships that are mutually beneficial. To accomplish this you have to focus on what you can do to help the people you meet.”

Business networking is the process of establishing a mutually beneficial relationship with other business people and potential customers. Business networking is a long-term strategy and its purpose is to increase business revenue… Businesses are increasingly using business networking and social networks as a means of growing their circle of business contacts and promoting themselves.

People do business with people they like, know, and trust and networking allow professionals to build up their circle of valued and trusted business partners. Businesses are rapidly expanding globally and networking is an essential part of their strategic initatives to develop key contacts around the world… The world has gotten smaller, and through your networking activities you are surprisingly close to critical information, resources, and people…

In the article “Five Secrets for Successful Business Networking” by Kristi Blicharski writes:  With the climb in popularity over the last few years of online business networking and social media platforms, the popularity and number of in-person networking events have also increased, offering infinite opportunities for those who take the initiative to venture out and see what’s happening in the business world, away from the computer screen.

In addition to large networking organizations, i.e., the general one-size-fits-all networking events; there are other groups that focus on particular niches or industries providing more targeted opportunities for meeting new contacts, mentors, and potential customers. So, how do the savviest networkers make the most of all these opportunities? They follow a few key practices that greatly increase the value of what they take away, as well as what they have to offer others they meet. For example:

  • Approach each event and the people you meet from the stand point of “What can I give?” rather than “What can I get?”
  • Don’t hand someone your business card within the first 2 minutes of meeting in an attempt to manufacture a contact without even knowing anything about the person. Random card dropping is generally not productive, and can be perceived as disingenuous.
  • When someone gives you his or her business card, think of it as a great compliment. Follow the traditional Japanese custom of treating the card, and therefore the person, with great respect.
  • Give the person or people you are talking to your full attention. This may sound like a no-brainer, but think of all the people whose eyes are darting around the room to see who else is there while they’re half listening to the people they’ve just met.
  • Your smile is one of your greatest commodities. It’s absolutely, 100% true, and I can’t stress it enough.

In the article “How to Profit From Networking” by Kelley Robertson writes: Networking functions provide the opportunity to expand contact, particularly when we create and nurture quality relationships. It is not enough to visit networking groups, talk to dozens of people, and gather as many business cards possible. Since every networking function has tremendous potential for new business leads; it’s critically important that you have a well-defined strategy to make networking profitable, such as:

  • Choose the right networking group or event.
  • Focus on quality contacts versus quantity..
  • Make a positive first impression.
  • Be able to clearly state what you do.
  • Follow up after the event.

In the article “Men vs. Women: Who Dominates Online Professional Networking?” by Kristin Burnham writes:  Which gender reigns supreme in the world of online professional networking? According to data from LinkedIn, it’s the men—both in the United States and across the globe. The reason: According to Nicole Williams, author of ‘Girl on Top’, women tend to equate networking with “schmoozing” or handing out business cards. “In reality,” she says, “[networking] is about building relationships before you actually need them.

To declare a winner, LinkedIn developed an “online professional networking savviness ranking,” a formula that examines the ratio of connections that men have versus those of women, and the ratio of male members on LinkedIn to female members. LinkedIn also sliced the data by industry, surfacing some interesting tidbits. In female-dominant industries, such as cosmetics for example, it’s the men who, once again, beat out the women in online professional networking.

According to LinkedIn, they’re the ones sending out more invitations to connect and they have larger networks. Other top industries in which men are savvier online professional networkers include medical practice; hospital and healthcare; law enforcement; and capital markets.

On the flip side, in male-dominant industries such as tobacco and ranching, female professionals are savvier networkers than their male counterparts. Other industries in which females dominate networking include; alternative dispute resolution; alternative medicine; and international trade and development. 

LinkedIn data analysts say this could be because women have to work harder to break into male-dominated industries, and vice versa. A few areas in which men and women were equally as savvy include: market research; media production; dairy; individual and family services; and paper and forest products.

In the article 5 Rules for Professional Social Networking Success” by Dan Klamm writes:  Social media is messy. Across Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other Networks, we are connected to a mix of close friends, college buddies, high school classmates, co-workers, bosses, former bosses, I-met-you-at-a-party-once acquaintances, and people we’ve never even seen face-to-face.

It’s important to understand the particular platform that you’re using, as well as, the type of relationship you have with a person; before attempting to leverage that connection for professional gain.

Each social media platform has a certain reputation. For instance, LinkedIn is generally a ‘business’ site, while Twitter is more ‘laid back’ and often mixes professional and personal content. Respect the way that people use these sites. Adding a professional acquaintance as a friend on Facebook can be invasive, especially if that individual is a traditionalist who uses Facebook purely for personal contact with friends and family.

Likewise, asking an old friend for a recommendation on LinkedIn might create awkwardness, if the person has no experience with you in a professional capacity. When you approach someone for career help via social media, know what you want out of the interaction and ask specific questions that show you’ve done your research. Be direct!

In the article “Effective Networking for Busy People” by Buzzy Gordon writes: It is estimated that the average person knows about 250 people. And each of those people knows, in turn, another 250 or so people. This means that for each new person you meet, you gain access to a potential pool of 62,500 people separated from you by just two degrees!

Imagine the odds, then, that out of so many people, you would NOT find one person who would be a source of information about a better job, additional clients or customers, a speaking engagement or writing assignment, an investment opportunity, where to shop for better value, and much more.

Networking is one of the most profitable activities in which one can engage. Fortunately, like any endeavor, one can get more proficient at it with practice. Moreover, it takes very little time or effort to get it right, and a conscious decision to become a ‘networker’. Then, all it requires is a slight shift in attitude, and adopting one simple trifurcated rule: “Greet each new acquaintance with an openness to learn more about that person, a willingness to help, and an offer to stay in touch.”

This approach is equally applicable to every form of networking, whether in business or social contexts, and whether the encounter takes place in person or, as frequently happens today, online.  It pays to network in person, not only to meet new people, but also to keep your vital communications skills sharp.

If you feel you are too busy to go to networking events, attend only those vital to your professional or business standing. Make the best of chance and casual meetings that occur during the course of your normal workday.  The power of online networking is in the viral effect so unique to the Internet.  Lack of time is no longer an excuse for failing to “reach out and find someone”…

In the article “Online Professional Networking” by Gary H. Jacobs writes: In today’s uncertain business environment, online professional networking has become more important than ever before. In addition to the obvious use of maintaining a network of contacts in the event of a job loss, layoff, or business setback, these networks also provide access to:

  • Almost unlimited number of professional contacts.
  • Opportunityto help friends and colleagues.
  • Exchange ideas and materials outside of one’s normal circle of contacts.
  • Staying up-to-date with industry trends.
  • Establish a public profile and online identity.
  • Re-establish contact with long lost friends and colleagues.

In online business networking, the principles are much the same as networking in person. A networker must start out by giving information and expertise with no expectation of return. As a result, the networker will gain visibility and experience, both inside and outside of his or her industry, and will develop a reputation as someone who can help others.

According to Jan Vermeiren, networking expert, he refers to the networking cycle as “Giving-Asking-Thanking”. Networking has been around a long time, and that’s why it’s not only the way of the past, but the wave of the future. It’s where business marketing is going, and it’s where you need to go if you’re going to stay in the game.

As the great Wayne Gretzky’s father said, “skate to where the puck is going, not to where it has been”.  Whether you’re just starting out in your career, launching a new business, or advanced in your profession, effective networking know-how is one of the most important skills you can possess.

“Networking Rule of Two: Your goal for any type of networking event should be to meet 2 people that you’d like to get to know better. After the networking event you follow-up with these 2 people, 2 times”. ~Julie Wickert