August 28, 2014

4 Ways To Improve Your Business Networking

As small business owners and consultants, we understand the importance of networking. Your ability to schmooze, to meet people, and to create relationships will very often determine your success in business and how far you’re able to take your company. However, that doesn’t mean most of us are very good at it. We have a difficult time starting conversations and even keeping the relationships that we do start.

We could all be a little better.

Below are four tips to help increase your networking A-game:

1. Ask Better Questions

When you attend a conference, seminar or networking event, you’re not there for small talk. You’re there to learn more about the people who are attending the event and to uncover potential business opportunities. That means those vague questions designed to fill the silence but that don’t actually reveal any information? They need to go.

What types of questions should you be asking?

Ones that dig deeper. Get a handle on your new contact’s story – when did they start their business, why did they start it, what is their business mentality/how do they see things? Ask about the tools they use, the pain points they have, what they’re working on, and what they’re excited about.

These types of questions are going to move you beyond the “Hi, my name is John” phase and they’re going to get you closer inside their business and their mind. This is important for getting to know people, but it’s also important down the road when you’re looking to maintain the relationships you’ve created.

2. Share a Memorable Fact

At some point the conversation will turn to you. Someone will ask you what you do, what brings you here, or about your hobbies. Instead of using this opportunity to be boring and sound like everyone else, share something that is unique and memorable about you. Maybe you have a passion for collecting coins. Or you sky dive on the weekends. Or you’re an advocate for a particular cause.

Share something that will help that person to not only remember you, but to learn a little bit more about who you really are. Networking is not about learning everyone’s name in the room. It’s about forming relationships. The more you reveal about yourself, the better the relationship you’ll create.

3. Keep Notes

Immediately after you return home from the event, while your adrenaline is still pumping, jot down information about everything that happened while you were out:

  • Who did you meet?
  • What did you talk about?
  • What is the important information about the people you met (interests, kids, projects they’re working on)
  • What cards do you have in your pocket?
  • What topics kept coming up?
  • Did you promise to call/email/connect with someone?

Getting this all down on paper while it’s still fresh in your mind will leave you better prepared for follow up conversations, will help you remember important information, and can assist in cataloging your new contacts.

4. Create a Reason For Follow Ups

Maybe it’s that you’ll give the person a call to discuss X.

Or that you’re going to look up Y and back to them.

Or that you heard they were having a problem with Z and you have the solution.

Whatever it is, have a reason for a follow up conversation in the near future. If you’ve asked the right questions, you should have an idea of how you can be of value to that person – whether it’s a tool recommendation, an introduction, or the opportunity for a deeper conversation. Find a way to take action on it to keep the momentum and the relationship going.

If you return home from networking events without a list of things to do or no plans for how you’ll reconnect with the people you had conversations with, you’re missing out on potentially huge business opportunities.

Those are some of the tips that help me in my business networking? Any pointers you’re willing to share with the class? I’m sure we could all benefit.

13 Comments ▼

Lisa Barone


Lisa Barone Lisa Barone is Vice President of Strategy at Overit, an Albany Web design and development firm where she serves on the senior staff overseeing the company’s marketing consulting, social media, and content divisions.

13 Reactions

  1. Do you think it is rude to take notes while speaking with someone at a conference or seminar?

  2. Great suggestions, Lisa. I would add “what goes around, comes around”. Be prepared to give crisp answers to how the people you meet can help you, and, always ask what you can do to help them.

  3. These are great points to consider Lisa. Thanks!

  4. I totally agree. I love building a relationship before offering my services to my potential clients. Talk about life and relate to them!

  5. This is really a bad advice. “You’re not there for small talk.”? I think you go to networking to grab, not to build relationship. I believe you will need to read Ivan Misner’s books first.

  6. Nice to know that we have something new to discuss when it comes to networking in our businesses.

    Thanks for putting up these points because now I will go forward and research over each separately and in detail.

  7. I like your points however I would argue that small talk is really important in helping the people you are with relax and feel comfortable with you. Small talk is not trivial it is actually the prelude to big talk… http://www.relationology.co.uk/myth-2-small-talk-is-trivial/

  8. “4 Ways to Improve your Business Networking” is a great article which really helps business owners/consultant. We all know that starting up a business and building a networking / relationship to others is really hard without knowing the steps to be a better business owner and partner. I like the tips Lisa enumerated because those are the ones which are important and must practice not only by business owners but also to those people who want to succeed in their fields. Asking questions and keeping notes for me is the best of those lists because through this activity you can think and gain a better idea for the improvement of your business and also for building good relationship with your business partners/customers.

  9. If you’re networking for future business, set up a commitment to reconnect with each person you’re meeting while you’re in their presence. It’s easier to gain their commitment to discuss a future project while you’re face to face than to later surprise them with a follow up call/ email when they aren’t expecting it. Sometimes you have to regain trust when calling on them unexpectedly, while gaining their permission to hear from you again while they are getting to know you cements their trust in you.

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