Networking is an essential and important component of the business world. However, as necessary as it may be, business people tend to dread the inevitable task. More often than not, it is because they don’t necessarily find much success throughout the arduous process.
Surprisingly, much of the secret to networking success lies not in how successful your business is, rather, it is in the personal and character-driven skill sets and qualities of the business person or entrepreneur.
If you struggle with networking, or you’re looking to improve upon your already impressive networking skills, here are the 5 essential personal skills you need to make a lasting, positive impression:
1. Be Authentic and Genuine
Sure, being authentic and genuine isn’t necessarily a ‘skill set’ you can just acquire. There are different practices and habits you can adopt which will paint you as a more earnest and reliable business person. The best thing about adopting these practices is that it’s easy. It only requires a little bit of mindfulness and diligence.
Authenticity and being genuine start at the simplest levels. For example, when meeting a new business contact, don’t jump right into business talk. Talk to them as a person first, rather than someone you can benefit from knowing. In the end, treating someone like a friend rather than an advantageous contact will make them more likely to help and guide you.
Moreover, being genuine is typically something people can sense. Typically in the business world, people get caught up in the work aspect of things and the ‘dog-eat-dog-world’ mentality.
While you should be looking out for your business and its success, this doesn’t mean you should walk over other people to get there. Character and management styles communicate a lot about a person, and this could turn away contacts if you’re too cutthroat.
Finally, in being authentic and genuine, be mindful of people who maybe can’t provide you with the same opportunities you can provide them. Don’t treat these people any less than the contacts that can give you plenty of opportunities.
How you treat those who can logistically ‘do nothing’ for you is just as important as how you treat the CEO of a major corporation. This is a key component of having an authentic and likeable character when networking.
2. Make it a Two-way Street
Networking is never about one person making out better than the other party. It takes a joint effort to create a mutually beneficial and lasting business relationship. Typically, selfish people don’t create business contacts because they’re only looking to gain for themselves. The best way to nurture networking relationships is to offer something beneficial to the other party.
Based on the Robert B. Cialdini’s “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion,” the principle of reciprocation instinctively kicks in and compels us to return the favor. Essentially, you will get more out of networking relationships when you offer up an attractive service, favor, product, or deal to the other party because, generally, they will feel compelled to return the favor.
“The currency of real networking is not greed but generosity.” – Keith Ferrazzi
3. Be Easy to Teach
As an entrepreneur, you’ve probably overcome a handful of trials and tribulations. It’s no secret that to be an entrepreneur you have to be cunning, clever, relentless, dedicated, and driven.
Generally, entrepreneurs get a lot of credit, but it’s important not to let this get to your head. One important aspect of networking is not only the opportunities available presented to you, but also any lessons or words of wisdom the person offers.
Being easy to teach makes these business contacts more likely to share their experiences with you, what works, what doesn’t, and how to handle different situations. Not only are you encouraging and empowering the person giving you the advice, but you’re also taking in new perspectives and ideas to help you and your business. It’s a win-win situation for both parties.
Moreover, people are more likely to connect with and help people that listen intently and recognize the validity and value of other people’s viewpoints. Receive the advice and ideas contacts give you with an open mind, and you’ll be sure to make a lasting positive impression.
4. Stay in Touch
While staying in touch isn’t necessarily a personality or character trait, it’s extremely important. Business relationships are just like any other relationship: they require constant effort, following up, and reciprocation. Very often, people exchange business cards without ever following back up. Even if the contact isn’t necessarily relevant to your business, you exchanged cards for a reason.
Essentially, you never know who they may know or what advice they may have to help you in your business endeavors. It may seem like a tedious task, but following up and staying in touch with new and old network contacts is one of the most important parts of developing and fostering healthy, beneficial business relationships.
“Success isn’t about how much money you make; it’s about the difference you make in people’s lives.” – Michelle Obama
5. Show your Appreciation and Gratitude
Even though networking is pretty much a universal endeavor, it never hurts to express your appreciation and gratitude to the contact you made. By simply sending a ‘thank you’ email, or better yet a ‘thank you’ card, you’re sure to gain major brownie points with the contacts in your network.
This is because gratitude and appreciation are hard to come by. Even if the act was as simple as exchanging business cards or taking time to have a coffee, you should thank the other party. Not only does it bode well for your character, but it also shows that you respect and value their time, opinions, and any help or advice they may offer.
This should also be kept in mind for contacts you have had for a while. Even if the relationship gets comfortable, it’s still important to thank them every now and again. This helps ensure that the relationship is still appreciated and valued and that neither party is taking the other for granted. By showing your appreciation, people are then more likely to continue to help you. It also might help you be more grateful overall in your day-to-day life!
Networking can seem like a daunting task however, if you go into it with genuine and mindful intentions, you could wind up meeting some fascinating people, developing long-lasting business relationships, and advancing the interests of you and your business.
Often times, formal institutions and coaching focuses on the technical aspects of networking: how to shake a hand, how to deliver an elevator pitch, what to wear, and how to speak. All these aspects are important, but they can come off rather robotic.The key to successful networking lies in the personality and genuineness of your character.
At the end of the day, if you are shallow and selfish with your interests when networking, you’ll have a much harder time developing lasting, beneficial relationships. Being mindful and down-to-earth should be the main thing in mind when embarking on networking efforts.