Networking is the lifeblood of ALL successful business owners and professionals. From multimillion dollar enterprises to itty bitty idea startups – each one – at least the wise ones – will say – their best opportunities have come as a result of their network...what about you?
Know how to curate relationships and nurture them in a way that is win win for you both – and the sky is the limit!
Violate trust and break the spoken and unspoken rules of networking and you could find yourself quickly in the category of a one hit wonder or “She Who Shall Not Be Named” ala Harry Potter.
So while no one want to become She Who Shall Not Be Named – I thought reviewing some of the protocol for networking, follow-up and no spam policies would be a great way to start the New Year strong.
Oh….and if you are new to me and what makes me qualified to give advice on this topic – here’s some insight…….
I am a 20 year entrepreneur who for the last 5 years in addition to running my successful coaching practice has been the Executive Managing Director for eWomenNetwork in Greater Bellevue/Seattle, Washington. This organization is one of the largest on most influential international networking organizations with chapters throughout North America. My role has been to facilitate events, make connections to support women in the growth of their businesses and share networking best practices that develop win-win relationships. Thousands of women over the last 5 years have attended events I’ve facilitated – some quite seasoned in the etiquette of entrepreneurship and some soooo very brand new. In each instance my commitment is to support them in their growth to make the best impression possible with a few basic tips.
Here are your 5 never fail tips:
Not everyone will want your business card….and that’s ok! You aren’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea – and they certainly won’t always be yours. Don’t be offended if someone doesn’t ask for your card after meeting you.
You won’t want everyone’s card you meet – and take my word – you’ll be offered many. No need to be rude and say no thank you if offered. Simply take it – and ALWAYS send an email after the event saying briefly how it was a pleasure to meet them at the event and you wish them great success in their endeavors. You don’t have to schedule coffee with everyone you meet, you don’t have to fluff the email with great praise. Just a simple nice to meet you will make a BIG impression. Many people have shared that simply by doing this – the response they get from connections is always positive and a definite way to increase your professional brand credibility.
Some people you will truly want to connect with after the event, meet for coffee perhaps or discuss joint venture or strategic partnership possibilities. Fantastic! Make a note on those cards and be sure to follow up! My friend Elizabeth Case, owner of Yellow Dog Consulting a sales and marketing firm for small business owners, says, "your fortune is in the follow up……be sure to follow up!"
Just because someone hands you their card – does NOT give you permission to add them to your list --- this is just bad manners – and also illegal – as an FYI. If it’s someone where you had a short encounter – and you want to include in your follow up thank you email – a short sentence that says something like, “if you’d like to see more of my work on_______(insert your business niche) here’s a link to my website – with great blog posts – or complimentary resources – whatever you offer) …. It give them the ability to visit your online home and learn more – if you have an “opt-in” offer – and you should – and it appeals to them, they can personally select in for your offer. If they don’t….it’s ok…..(refer back to #1 ……you’re not going to be everyone’s cup of tea).
What if someone adds you to their list without your permission? Take a deep breath….remember – some people don’t know the etiquette.
You can opt out directly through their email service and say nothing.
You can opt out directly through their email service and say nothing to them but something to everyone else who listens.
You can opt out directly through their email service and then email or call them directly and politely say, “Hey, we met at _____________ event and somehow I ended up on your email list. I know we exchanged cards but it wasn’t my intention at that point to opt in to your list. I bring this up because some people don’t know it actually violates anti-spam laws around the world – and some business people might find it offensive; so I thought I’d take the lead and check in with this supportive message and hopefully save you the wrath of someone who might get really offended or even mad because this happened. Thanks for hearing me out and know that this message is being sent with the rule of good intention. Continued success.”
You can ask the person in charge of the event you attended to talk to the “offender”. Candidly this and the second option above are possibly the two least desirable actions. Being a professional in business means needing to have difficult or uncomfortable conversations. If you need guidance with language or your approach, that’s one thing but as a professional don’t expect others to address your challenges, it’s just good business.
What if you you’ve trapped yourself? You know…you said, “Sure, I’d love to learn more about______” when you were just really being “polite” – I mean who follows up? See #2 first point ;-) …..and now this person won’t leave you alone. You just need to let them know – straight up; “Thanks for following up, I definitely see where the work you do makes an impact, however at this time it’s not for me. If I come across people who could benefit from your work, I will certainly keep you in mind.” See – direct, not offensive, not telling them you will definitely refer them. It is typically our vagueness in our replies that trip people on the other side up, we say things like, “I’d love to learn more……” when what we really want to say is, “that sounds interesting – continued success finding clients that are the perfect fit.”
As business people we encounter hundreds of people each year. Your net worth is in your network. How you treat people will influence your income. Few people are chronic offenders who don’t get it and will bully you into something you don’t want to do. Most people just don’t know better, or are just following your vague reply and actually believe you are a potential lead. If you take the high road and opt with #3 and #5 you will likely find more times than not people are grateful for you being kind and compassionate in educating them as opposed to beating them down or getting angry. You never know how this one action could create an advocate for you in your business.
Think of a time in business when you made an error, because you “didn’t know better” or enthusiastically “jumped the gun”. Would you rather have someone jump down your throat, or gently let you know your actions weren’t appreciated or welcomed?
Be intentional with your networking. Be clear in your communication. Know in advance why you are attending networking events. Who are the ideal people you want to meet and get to know?
If you are attending events looking only for customers, you will lose thousands of dollars in revenue. If you are attending events with the intention of growing your network to add value to existing relationships – you will be certain to attract people who are looking for the same thing.
When we know better we do better.
Here’s to your best year of curating mutually beneficial relationships based on clear and direct communication!
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