Like any proactive business-minded person, I devote a considerable portion of my time toward the cultivation and nurturing of strategic business networks. To share some insights into art of Business networking, I’ve come across a video by Ivan Misner who heads up one of the world’s largest networking organisations, BNI (Business Networkers International), who describes the top 10 characteristics possessed by successful networkers, which I thought I’d share with you:
Some of the key points he raises are that business networking is more about farming, rather than hunting. The objective being to cultivate relationships with other business professionals as opposed to simply sourcing and consuming.
Top 10 Traits of a Master Networker
10. They Actively Work their Network
- Manage contacts with contact management software – use online software such as SalesForce.com to manage your database of contacts
- Organise emails – take a structured approach to storing client correspondence
- Carry referral partners business cards – never miss an opportunity to pass a referral, because by thinking of your referrals they’ll want to refer to you in exchange
- Make Appointments to get better acquainted – within the BNI circles these are called Dance cards, where you make an hour a week to meet up with one of your contacts to learn more about their business, so you know what their best referrals are
- Convey sincerity – be genuine in your interactions.
- Offer undivided attention – aside from just being courteous, you’ll learn more if you pay attention!
8. Enjoys Helping Others
- Keep eyes and ears open to advance other people’s interests – on a more selfish note too, by having a large network of people you can refer to makes you look VERY well connected in the business social circles.
- Thank people for the help they’ve given – this tells your referrers that you recognize and acknowledge the work they’ve done to help grow your business
- Builds to cultivation of relationships – through appreciation of other people’s work you develop closer relationships
6. Network ALWAYS.
- Never off-duty. Everything is an opportunity to network – be interested in other people’s business and lives, as you never know when the next big opportunity is hiding!
5. Good Listening Skills
- How well we can listen and learn – of particularly interest are any comments made which present gaps or dissatisfactions in people’s lives, as these often present golden opportunities to pass referrals
- The better a listener you are, then faster you can build a valuable relationships
4. Be Trustworthy
- Must be able to trust your referral partner – the ultimate objective in cultivating professional networks is the development of trust. Trust in both your products and services, but also more importantly trust in you as an individual.
- You’ll never be referred if you can’t be trusted to handle that referral well. People’s referral of you is an extension of their trust with the referee, so ALWAYS remember to follow up promptly on any referrals and ensure you uphold that trust with both your referral and referrer.
3. Enthusiasm / Motivation
- Need to sell yourself with enthusiasm – more than just being a “motivated seller”, your overall personality and how you carry yourself is a very influential factor when others decide whether they want to do business with you (or refer to you)
- Passionate in your area – know your products and services and be a enthusiastic ambassador in their promotion
2. Having a positive attitude
- Makes people want to associate and cooperate with you – nobody likes or wants to be around a sad sack.
- Others will want to be around them, and send people to them – if people got a good vibe from being around you, then they’ll be more confident that others will as well. Therefore their referral of you will in turn reflect well on them for having referred you.
1. Follow up on Referrals.
- #1 trait of successful networkers, so let’s just re-emphasize this again; FOLLOW UP ON YOUR REFERRALS!!!
- If you refer to someone who doesn’t follow up, this reflects poorly on both the referrer and referee – fail to do this repeatedly and you’ll stop receiving referrals at all.
In summary, it takes time and effort to build up your “social capital”. More than simply churning and burning leads as they come in, properly nurtured business relationships can develop into a continual source of new business if handled properly. The above 10 characteristics merely describe the traits of master business networkers who are successful at this – the hard part is taking on these traits yourself and making sure you follow through on these.