It amazes me the number of people I meet who are at the top of their game in the business world, and yet they struggle with confidence when it comes to networking meetings. I wonder how they find networking so difficult when they are remarkably impressive performers in other areas of business.
The truth is, there are a lot of reasons people struggle with networking. Sometimes it is just confidence, and sometimes it is a lack of experience, organization, or time management.
This led me to create my Ten Commandments of Successful Networking. These are step-by-step practical guidelines covering everything one needs to do to be a highly confident and successful business networker.
Ten Commandments of Successful Networking
- Do Not Sell to Me. If we are trying to help one another get more business, you tell me your target market, I tell you my target market and when we are out in the world, we speak well of one another and refer one another. Do not try to sell to me – I’m your referral resource; you can sell through me to get to the people that I know. If I need your product or service, I will certainly call upon you. Don’t sell to me; build a relationship with me.
- Understand the Law of Reciprocity. If I am sending business to you, please keep me top of mind. Giving me a new client is the best thank you I can receive, and I will continue working to find referrals for you when I know you appreciate me. The Law of Reciprocity is part of social capital theory and in BNI® it is our principle core value – Givers Gain. If you help me, I’ll help you, and we’ll all do better as a result.
- Do Not Abuse Our Relationship. Sending me a bogus referral just to use me, my expertise, or my resources for free without asking permission first is the fastest way to lose my respect. Mutually beneficial referral partnerships are built on trust.
- Always Be on Time. If we have arranged a meeting to get to know one another and strategize how we can refer business to each other, don’t be late. I dedicated this time in my schedule FOR YOU, and I respect you enough to be on time. I expect the same. Don’t reschedule our appointment unless it is absolutely critical.
- Be Specific. Specific Is Terrific! Tell your referral partners, in a laser sharp way, how to refer to you. If you tell me your target market is “anybody” or “everybody,” that means nobody to me. The more specific you are, the easier it will be for me to find referrals for your business.
- Take Your Business Seriously. As your networking partner, I need to know your intentions. If your company is a hobby business, it will be difficult for me to assist you. If it is a part-time business, you are limited in the time you spend working on your business, and also in the time you have working to find referrals for me. However, if you’re working your business part-time with a goal of making it full-time, I am there for you,100%. You must be 100% in your business in order for your networking group to feel comfortable referring you.
- Follow Up on Referrals. When I send you a referral for potential business, please follow up with that prospect in a timely fashion– ideally within 24 hours. If you’re going out of town or will not be available for some time, a quick call, text, or e-mail to the person to let them know when you will be available will preserve your credibility AND protect my reputation in recommending you to someone I know and care about.
- Communicate. If I do something that upsets you, inadvertently send you a “bad” referral, or cause you to have ill feelings toward me, please communicate with me as soon as possible. I may not be aware that I have caused a problem for you. If you tell me, I can try to fix it. Referral networking is about relationships. Clear, open, honest, and direct communication is the best way to build effective relationships with referral partners.
- Protect My Reputation. Most people would rather die than risk their reputations. If I receive disparaging or derogatory feedback from a referral that I sent to you, it is as though you cut me off at the knees. Please do what you say you will do and live up to the ethical standards of your profession. Protect my reputation (and yours) by doing a good job.
- Prepare for Success. If you really want to grow your business, then prepare to receive more business. Does your current business plan include the next steps for your company’s growth? I will move mountains for my networking partners to ensure they get referrals on a consistent basis.
Understanding and following these recommendations as a regular part of your business networking practices can help new and seasoned professionals network successfully. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
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