What Qualities Make a Good Networker
In this article, we describe and discuss 1) the definition of networking; 2) the common traits of a good networker; 3) networking tips for entrepreneur; 4) importance of networking for entrepreneurs; and 5) examples of entrepreneurial networking.
THE DEFINITION OF NETWORKING
Networking is defined as, “Developing and using contacts made in business for purposes beyond the reason for the initial contact.” Business Networking is referred to as a low-cost technique of marketing used to develop new contacts in the business world through associating with other individuals who share similar ideas. Business Networking usually involves a face to face meetings at any time and any place. Mostly, it is done during community or business events. These kinds of events are organized by business organizations or groups, held at a national or local level. The events generally are planned along with a business activity such as business conferences. Participants take the opportunity to interact with each other and share business ideas and express their intent to develop business associations with due attention to the benefits of each member to be involved. Most of these meetings are held once in a month, sometimes these might take place more frequently.
With the advent of the Internet, business relations are developed over the virtual platforms by utilizing the services of online sites that are free and incur a bare minimum cost. A Virtual Business Networking site provides the benefits of connecting with members all around the world.
The various kinds of business network include:
- Casual Contact Networking: The goal of this kind of networking is to establish connections with like-minded individuals in a non-business and casual atmosphere.
- Strong Contact Networking: This kind of networking involves people who want to promote their busing among other participants. Examples include Business Networking International (BNI), Chamber Lead, and PowerCore groups to name a few. The goal is to establish trusting relationships that will enhance the business prospects.
- Community Service: Participation in the local community activities increases the visibility of a business entrepreneur.
- Professional Associations: The objective is to establish strategic alliances with the participants from your industry. Participating in l associations that are specifically developed for your target market is an excellent to connect with the potential prospects.
- Social Groups: This network establishes the healthy exchange of information related to performance, compliance and risk. It helps unravel the opportunities for increasing your business.
- Vertical Focused Consortium: The objective of this kind of networking is to encourage retailers, suppliers and vendors participate from a specific industry.
THE COMMON TRAITS OF A GOOD NETWORKER
- Enthusiasm: As a better Networker, you should enter a room confidently and repeat to yourself that you have similar rights to be present there as others. Help clients with a sense of passion and enthusiasm when explaining the product or service and be proud of the company you represent. You should be ready to accept challenges and help others develop an interest in the workplace.
- Ask interesting questions: You should be aware of the present situation and ask the right questions in an appropriate manner. This gesture will attract the best responses and people will be interested in investing in your business.In an attempt to develop good Networking skills, you must learn the art of asking intelligent and interesting questions. You must not follow the stereotype. The innovative way of asking questions, maybe:
– Who will be attending the event?
– Could you please tell me about the event’s format?
– Why have you invited me and what am I expected to do at the event?
- Express generosity: A good Networker should be generous and practice the art of giving. A business leader should not think about the rewards only. The thoughts such as ‘What’s in it for me’ should be replaced with the thought of ‘What’s in it for you?’. Networking refers to the establishment of relationships with other individuals. It is not possible if people dislike you. So, it is necessary to build a cordial relationship with other members of the network.
- Reliability and trustworthiness: A good Networker should be able to build a sense of reliability and trust among others. This involves the timely delivery of assignments as well as abiding by what you say. For Instance, if you have booked an appointment for a particular time, ensure that you reach the venue on time. In case of an emergency, if you need to cancel the appointment inform the person accordingly.
- As a good Networker, you must persist in case you happen to observe an opportunity. You must face every situation with a positive attitude and grab any opportunity that comes your way.
- Good networking requires a business leader to acquire the skill of active listening. You must pay full attention and listen carefully to what is being said. This might enhance your business. Expressing genuine interest in other’s opinions attracts more investors.
- A good Networker should maintain a balance and get the timing right. You should know when to talk about an issue; right time to listen to a topic; when to enter or exit a group; right time to implement a follow-up action or create intervals among all these tasks judiciously.
NETWORKING TIPS FOR ENTREPRENEURS
As it was defined by Carl Schurz: “Ideals are like stars: You will not succeed in touching them with your hands, but like the seafaring man on the desert of waters, you choose them as your guides, and following them, you reach your destiny.” Here are 20 tips for entreprneurs on how you can develop and improve your networking skills:
- Focus on how you can help others. The first step of networking is considered to have a friendly and helpful attitude. You should attempt to establish a business relationship with an individual, that means you should think how your association can benefit the other person, not just thinking how he can help you. Talk to someone with a perception of how the other person will benefit from sharing an association with you.
- Follow-up is a crucial technique to develop a good network. After the first meeting, you must send a small note or an email to the concerned person. This gesture develops confidence in the other individual that you want to continue the desired relationship. To have a fruitful follow-up process, you must mention the details of the previous interaction and try to create a reference point in relation to something you found interesting in that particular conversation. In case you do not find any reference point, you can recommend a book you feel the person may enjoy or share your views about an interesting mobile application that you have used. The main objective is to strike a healthy conversation and build a sense of mutual confidence.
- Maintain and cultivate your current contact. Networking begins with the list of people you are currently in contact. It does not mean that you need to associate yourself with new people always. Develop strong rapport with ones whom you know and invest your potential to strengthen those relationships.
- Even if you feel that you don’t require a network, you must understand that establishing a network is essential in the current business world. You do not know how the association might help you at some time. It is an unpopular practice of asking help from someone with whom you have not maintained any form of contact for several years. This action will only exhibit your selfish attitude. So, it is better to maintain a healthy relationship.
- The art of networking should be viewed in the form of a puzzle. You must approach the puzzle with a thought process such as what are the needs of the other members of the network and how will you channelize your resources in order to help him/her?
- You should maintain a proper record of the business cards that you collect in the course of practicing business. You should give your business card after completing a professional conversation before asking the other person to give his business card.
- Networking helps you associate with the contacts of other members too. If are a member of a good networking group, the other members will introduce you to their friends. As a result the prospects for your business will increase. Keep this thing in mind with an intention to help others as they can also help you at some point in time.
- You should tell people in your network about your goals and expectations of the business world. This will give others an opportunity to realize how they may help you achieve your business goals.
- You should ask questions apart from the basic ones such as, “What do you do?” When you get an opportunity to interact with a member of the business network, you can begin the conversation by knowing him/her on the personal front, rather than the professional one. You can explore the common interests you share or the other person’s hobbies and many other such facts.
- You should prepare a calendar on a monthly basis. The calendar should include the meetings with the list of people on your network on a rotational basis. In this way, you can classify the contacts list and associate with the people accordingly.
- You should make it a habit of congratulating people on special occasions such as birthday or anniversary. It will be more meaningful to him/her that you remembered to wish the concerned person for a special moment in his/her life.
- You should specify each point of your business target with absolute clarity. Detailed information should be given related to leads, deadlines, sales leads. Specific people should be aware of the concerned specific objectives.
- Behave with proper manners and etiquettes. You don’t wish to embarrass or insult people by elbowing while rushing to complete your targets. Once you are amidst a conversation with another individual, listen carefully and express interest in what they are saying. You must keep yourself engaged and participate in the conversation as and when it is required.
- Share your knowledge with others without any expectations of what you may get.
- Professional networking websites such as LinkedIn are a good resource for practicing and developing a healthy network. Through these sites, you can develop new connections and even ask the people to recommend your work to other business professionals in the specific industry.
- You must participate in social events or networking events like charity run, CSR initiatives, and many others. These events serve as a good place to meet new people who share similar thoughts and ideas. It is obvious everyone has some apprehension. You must take the first step and initiate a new beginning.
- As a business leader, you must think that why should other people express interest in your business. You must learn to highlight the important aspects of your business to other business leaders and communicate effectively about how associating with them can help you enhance your business.
- When you attend a networking event, prepare yourself with the general information. Conduct a little background check on the participants, who are also attending the event.
- People like to talk about their achievements. You should listen rather than talk as while talking you are not able to learn any feature of the other individual’s profile or business.
- Identify a mentor for yourself among the crowd gathered at a corporate event.
IMPORTANCE OF NETWORKING FOR ENTREPRENEURS
Shared valuable business advice & knowledge
Networking is an excellent platform for sharing your knowledge and ideas. Whether it refers to taking feedback or discuss your viewpoint, it will help increase your knowledge and make you capable of viewing things from a different perspective. It is possible that those members who have already reached your success level are present in the group. This provides a platform for you to learn and take preventive measures for the common drawbacks or pitfalls they have experienced.
Discover business opportunities
A good network offers ample opportunities to a business leader. It is natural you don’t know everything in business. The things that you are less knowledgeable about can be learned using the material from other business leaders. Referrals, business partnerships, or client request for your services might be the result of a good network.
Grow your business
It is essential to a business leader to maintain his visibility in the market. Networking helps in creating and maintaining a stable visibility. By participating in the networking events on a regular basis, you are recognized by many people. This helps in establishing the reputation of an intelligent, supportive and reliable person. People will start giving tips that can prove beneficial for your business. You will be in a position to attract more referrals and leads in the industry.
Getting introductions to investors
You should always remember that you not only gain exposure to various people present in the event, but you are establishing connections with their group of networks too. If someone finds a person in their network, who can benefit from your business and if you have impressed the person, then you win yourself an investor. It is not a one-way traffic. If someone helps you find an investor, you should also try to help him at some other given opportunity. You should not hesitate to give your details to the concerned person.
EXAMPLES OF ENTREPRENEURIAL NETWORKING
Reid Hoffman, the co-founder of the widely popular social networking site LinkedIn, states, “Relatively few people should start companies,” According to one of his interviews he mentions, “It’s everyone approaching their lives with questions like: How do I invest in myself? How do I become more capable at what I’m doing?” A crucial asset according to Hoffman is the professional network. He believes “I think the really key thing is to realize that relationships are like alliances.” Hoffman says that networkers who are effective in the present times behave in a different manner compared to their contemporaries 20 to 30 years back. According to him, people nowadays ask,” How do you see the industry changing? What do you think is happening? How do you do your job effectively? Is there anything I should learn from that in terms of how do I do my job effectively?
Heidi Roizen, popular as a legendary networker in Silicon Valley, is one of the few people sharing good friendship with Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. According to her, “It is important to remember that everyone is a person first of all – they have families, hobbies, they are psyched when someone knows about their accomplishments. So I stay up on the personal accomplishment news (in my industry, for example, by reading venture wire so I know who has done what deals, who has gotten funded, who has joined what board, who has gotten some recognition from some industry group etc.) and also always ask people about their kids, almost no one doesn’t like to talk about their kids! Those are good icebreakers to get them comfortable and conversational. This said, you can use these as icebreakers, but then quickly move into the ‘hey, I don’t want to take much of your time, but there is someone I think you should meet,” or “I’m working on a deal and I’d love to have you look at their website and tell me what you think’ – i.e. a short and to the point, direct request, which I usually try to qualify with something that explains why I think it is useful to that person to do as well.”