SmallbusinsstrendsLogoby Diane Helbig

The 59 Commandments of Business Networking

Business networking is one of the most effective marketing and prospecting tools you can use to grow your business.

Of course, done incorrectly it can actually be harmful to your business.

People have to trust you before they’ll do business with you or refer you. How can you make sure you are presenting yourself as someone who is trustworthy? Following the commandments of business networking below is a good start.

Commandments of Business Networking

Networking at Events

There are various aspects of this type of business networking, from preparation to follow up and everything in between:

  1. Identify where you should go. All venues are not right for all people. You owe it to yourself to do your research and find the venues that make sense for your business.
  2. Make a decision about which organizations. Decide the ones you should join and the ones you don’t have to join in order to gain value from the events. For example, does it make sense to join a local chamber of commerce, or just go to the events that sound interesting and will most likely include people you should meet?
  3. Register for the event and schedule it like a business meeting. Many people either don’t sign up for events or sign up for them and then forget to go.
  4. Determine how often you should be networking. How many times should you network in a given week, month or quarter? This will help you narrow down where you should be going.
  5. Develop open-ended questions. You can use these to ignite a conversation. Try to find unique questions. Don’t ask the same old “so what do you do” question if you can help it.
  6. Attend events with a plan. Always try to learn something new. This will keep you from talking too much about yourself and your business.
  7. Prepare yourself physically and mentally for the event. Dress appropriately. Bring business cards. Turn your phone off or set it to vibrate. (I’m not kidding!)
  8. Don’t forget to mingle. Are you going with someone? If so, split up once you get to the event.
  9. Get the lay of the land. When you arrive, step to the side. Take a deep breath and scan the room. This will give you a chance to regroup and focus before you approach anyone.
  10. Don’t sit down right away. Wait until the program begins. If there is no program, you can sit once you’ve connected with someone.
  11. Try to sit with strangers. This is no time to stick with people you know.
  12. Be a good Samaritan. Is there someone sitting alone? Go to them and introduce yourself. You’ll be saving their life! They are alone and nervous. You can even take them with you to mix and mingle with others.
  13. Don’t give your business card to everyone you meet. Rather, give it to anyone who asks you for it.
  14. Do get the business card of everyone you meet.
  15. Have a firm (but not killer) handshake. Your handshake is a key indicator of your level of confidence. So think about what your handshake is saying to those you meet.
  16. Be present — always. When you are talking with someone, look them in the eye and really pay attention to what they are saying. You may learn something about them that tells you whether you can help them. It’s also the only way you’ll determine whether you should continue to get to know them after the event is over.
  17. Don’t look around the room. And don’t look over someone’s shoulder when you are talking with them. It’s rude. You are letting them know that you aren’t really interested in them.
  18. Don’t take phone calls. If you are expecting a call or have a situation that may need your attention, let the person you are talking with know there is the possibility you’ll have to excuse yourself.
  19. Take necessary calls in private. Leave the room and go to a quiet place. It doesn’t make you seem important if you take a call in the room. It makes you seem impolite, silly, rude, arrogant … take your pick!
  20. Disengage politely. How do you get away from someone politely? There are a couple of tactics. You can tell them you don’t want to monopolize their time. You can tell them you see someone you need to speak with. You can excuse yourself to go to the restroom. You can tell them you’d like to continue meeting people. Learn the other 39 commandments of business networking @ SmallBusinessTrends.com